Archie Goddard was born with a broken heart.
While still just weeks old, doctors discovered that his aorta had a kink in it, with just one millimeter of blood able to pass through.
By a stroke of extraordinary luck, one of the state's best cardiologists was in Tamworth that week, in October, 2013.
When Dr Phillip Roberts looked at baby Archie, the infant had an extremely weak pulse. He diagnosed him with coarctation of the aorta. His mum had to Google it.
Without medical intervention, Archie probably wouldn't get to his second or third decade, the paediatric cardiologist said.
Eight years on, the prognosis is quite different. The same doctor who first treated him gave him a checkup on Thursday.
"We expect him to live a normal life and grow up to be a pilot like his dad," he told the Leader.
Dr Phillip Roberts, one of the state's leading children's heart specialists, is the network head of cardiology at the Sydney Children's Hospital's Heart Centre at the Westmead Hospital - but he conducted the checkup on the ground in person in Tamworth.
"Bringing the doctor to the patient rather than the patient to the doctor is the basic concept," he said.
"I think it's a great service. I think it probably saves the health service quite a bit of money by bringing out one doctor rather than paying out [the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme] for 40 families."
The doctor has conducted regional hub-and-spoke clinics for a decade, but coronavirus clipped the wings of the regional airlines that made that a simple process.
Little Wings stepped in to fill the gap. The charity has long flown families to treatment in Sydney. They recently flipped the program, carrying flying doctors the opposite direction.
An extraordinary 61 per cent of the clinics conducted by the statewide service have been in the Tamworth area, due to rising demand in the New England North West. The service lands in the city several times a week.
"Since the COVID pandemic I've actually had to get into my car and drive," Dr Roberts said.
"Driving to Dubbo, it's a five hour journey, takes ten hours out of my time, and I'm already time poor.
"Little Wings have stepped in.
"It definitely facilitates seeing more patients."
Mum Katie Goddard said Archie has grown up with the expert specialist cardiologist - Archie himself described Dr Roberts as a friend. They even get an annual photo together, to record the health journey.
"We're very fortunate in the country to have specialists like Phil come to these regional areas," she said.
"It saves us the juggle of work, getting time off and dragging younger brothers and sisters around the country and being in a car for six hours, which isn't too fun, so we're very grateful."
Dr Roberts was born in rural Zimbabwe and a has a great love for regional Australians - and a philosophy about service.
"You've got to lead from the front," he said.
"I've got to set precedent.
"I can't ask my cardiologist to go and do rural outreach clinics if I don't do them myself."
Little Wings chief executive Clare Pearson said the charity was incredibly proud to have been able to pivot during the COVID pandemic to be able to provide an additional service to make sure medical care isn't disrupted.
"We hope to continue this service beyond the pandemic and help close the gap in medical access for regional and rural NSW going forward," she said.
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