HELPING HAND: Jericho Health Clinic nurse Leslie Delandell has been awarded an RFDS Local Hero award for her long-standing efforts within the Jericho community.
HELPING HAND: Jericho Health Clinic nurse Leslie Delandell has been awarded an RFDS Local Hero award for her long-standing efforts within the Jericho community. Contributed

12-month plan rolls into 26 years of dedication

THERE is never a dull day as a bush nurse.

That's the opinion of Lesley Delandelles, a woman who has dedicated 26 years of service to the Jericho Health Clinic, situated about 50km west of Alpha in western Queensland.

During her time at Jericho she has helped countless patients within the centre's large catchment area, mended a camel's broken leg and removed a cactus thorn from a cat's eye.

However, as for the all-time highlight in her long-standing career, Lesley gave a simple, non-dramatic yet heartwarming answer: "Every day, at the end of the day, I can say I feel like I have made a difference”.

Leslie's dedication to the Jericho community hasn't gone unnoticed, with the rural nurse picking up a Royal Flying Doctors Service Local Hero award.

While humble Lesley might not feel like a "hero”, she said she felt honoured to receive the trophy.

Catching up with the Rural Weekly from the Jericho clinic, Lesley reflected on her time as a nurse in central-west Queensland.

Lesley has strong family connections to people working on the land - her parents were from a cattle property.

However, the country girl had moved away and made her own life for herself, working in the Bundaberg region, when she accepted a position at the Jericho Bush Nursing Centre, as it was known then. She agreed to the job under the proviso she would only stay for 12 months.

"The bush nursing clinic here was having trouble recruiting a nurse, they had been for some time,” she said.

"So a lot of my family members asked me if I would come out for a while until they found a nurse.

"So I took 12 months leave... and I have been here ever since.”

A few things happened that made Lesley decide to stay.

The day after she moved to town she met her husband Sydney, who was working building cattle yards at the time, and she quickly fell in love with her work and the community.

"Jericho is just one of those places. It really grows on you, it just does,” she said.

"It's the people out here. It's one of those places, a lot of people say they are moving out here for six months and they end up staying for a lifetime.”

Lesley was in her mid-30s when she moved out, and said at first it was challenging working in a close-knit and somewhat isolated community.

However, over the years, with improvements in the health sector, Lesley now has a huge support network she can rely on.

"I am not working by myself, I am part of a large team,” she said.

"I have a good support network within Queensland Health. We have a lot of communications resources, doctors who are on call that we can contact for advice.”

At the clinic there is a clerical assistant (someone Lesley describes as "terrific”), and a doctor on board every Friday.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is the essential resource that helps fill in the gaps.

"RFDS is incredibly vital; they are vital for people to be able to live out here in these western districts,” she said.

"It helps me, just knowing RFDS will take patients to tertiary level care on the coast in the big hospitals for emergencies,” she said.

Lesley described her job as "challenging” and "never boring”.

The hours of the day seem to fly by, she said.

Bush nurses are known for being multi-skilled and quickly adaptable, and it's this variety Lesley loves most.

"Being here is like being part of a big family,” she said.

"You look after the whole circle of life, from the unborn child and their mum, then right up to the wise old elderly - then there is everything in between.”

No matter what the situation is, if someone asks for help, Lesley will endeavour to lend a hand, and on occasion this has included treatment for pets and livestock.

"We have had some funny situations,” she said.

"There aren't too many vets in this region, but there are a lot of people out here who are involved in equestrian, campdrafting, barrel racing... all that type of thing.

"Occasionally their horse will be ill or injured and require an intravenous injection. So we have had, on a few occasions, horses brought in on a float or a truck because the owner is having trouble accessing the vein.”

Always the professional, Lesley now has vets she can call for assistance who will offer advice and talk through their recommendations if needed - this was the case with the cat.

"The cat had a cactus thorn, from one of those horrible cactus we get our here that puncture tyre tubes, right through his eyeball.

"So I rang the vet, and they said for me to take the thorn out and cover the eye. So I did that, then the family took the cat to the vet in Emerald. He has now had his eye removed surgically and he is doing well.”

Another happy highlight was mending a cow camel fracture.

"One of the funniest things we had here was a young female camel with a broken leg,” she said.

"It was a situation where they would either have to put the camel down, or we could just try and do something to help.

"So we put a back slab on her, we had to replace it a few times over a couple of months... and I heard the other day that she now has a young one, so she is fine.

"These are the types of things you might see, and I mean there is nowhere else for people to go. So if I can help I will, but I always try to find someone if it's out of my league.”

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