An extraordinary woman who set standards for all flight nurses

Kaye Melmeth
20 January 1949 – 17 March 2007

Air ambulance personnel past and present gathered for a special ceremony at the NSW Air Ambulance Base at Mascot on 11 December 2006, to honour an extraordinary woman.

A Beechcraft Super King Air, aircraft AMS (Alpha Mike Sierra), was named the ‘Kaye Melmeth’ as a perpetual tribute to our Senior Flight Nurse, for her 28 years of devoted service to the NSW Air Ambulance.

Many past and present flight nurses, pilots, Medical Retrieval Unit Coordinators, aircraft engineers, administration staff, aeromedical ambulance officers, family and friends attended the ceremony.

Kaye Melmeth began as a flight nur-se with Air Ambulance in 1978 and quickly rose to become Senior Flight Nurse, a position she held right up until being diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2006.

Kaye was instrumental in establishing standards for flight nurses across Australia and as a result many thousands of patients transported over the years have benefited from the highest quality of care.

Kaye began her registered nurse training in 1966 at Taree (Manning Base Hospital) and completed it at Royal Newcastle Hospital, teaming up with her twin sister Anne who was then two years her ‘junior’. Kaye never let Anne forget this fact! They used their identical twin status to their advantage, by creating confusion and humorous situations.

Kaye completed her midwifery course at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne and then returned to Royal Newcastle Hospital to study for her ICU course, while waiting for Anne to complete her studies so that they could travel to England together.

During two years in England, Kaye worked in the Renal Unit and ICU and then passed on her knowledge tutoring.

Kaye enjoyed critical care nursing and was always looking for a new challenge to utilise her many talents. She found that challenge in the Air Ambulance.

For many years Kaye held the position of president and treasurer of Flight Nurses Australia. She was responsible for establishing the Aviation Medicine Nursing Course through the University of South Australia and was a founding member of ISAS, the International Society of Aeromedical Services in Australia.

Kaye was able to share her extensive knowledge with us and encourage our self-development through ongoing education, through regular in-service and allowing time out for short and long courses and seminars.

The flight nurses were able to achieve proficiency in the paramedic protocols, which are vital as we are mainly the sole practitioner during flight.

Kaye was integral to the setting up of our newest fleet of four King Air aircraft, using her expertise in aviation medicine and vast knowledge of aeromedical operations.

She has made NSW Air Ambulance the magnificent operation it is today. Kaye always found time for her staff despite her busy working days. She was a good listener and a good negotiator.

Many flight nurses have been with Air Ambulance for many years, a reflection of the wonderful working environment she created. Many past staff kept in contact with Kaye for many years. She had many friends, a very busy social life and she enjoyed travelling overseas.

Kaye had a large family whom she saw frequently and she dearly loved her sisters and their families. She cared greatly for her ‘other’ family at Air Ambulance and we all appreciated this.

Her commitment to excellence in education and service to her profession has left behind a legacy for flight nurses and other aeromedical personnel to continue her great work.

Kaye did not set out to become a legend, but that is what she has become. Kaye passed away surrounded by her loving sisters. Her funeral at Tea Gardens was conducted with full Ambulance honours and a uniformed guard of honour solemnly bade her farewell.

Her untimely passing is a tragic loss for all who were privileged to know her. Her presence and her friendship at Air Ambulance will be very sadly missed.

She will be forever, the strength beneath our wings.

By Tanya Hill, NSW Air Ambulance Flight Nurse