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Health: IVF treatment in outback Queensland requires couple to travel 12 hours for appointments

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The sprawling cattle station Emma and Chris Thiedeke live on is the ideal playground for children.

With red dirt and endless skies, their property near Blackall in outback Queensland stretches to the horizon.

But the couple's journey to becoming parents has been fraught with difficulty.

"It means everything to me," Ms Thiedeke, 41, said.

"I just want to be a mum and I just want to see him be a father."

After suffering a miscarriage, the couple received news that a medical condition might affect their chances of falling pregnant.

So they turned to IVF.

But two years and $50,000 later, the Thiedekes are still childless.

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"It's a pretty expensive process to go down this path," Mr Thiedeke said.

"Everyone would have heard stories of people that have basically invested the farm into having kids, it's not for the faint hearted."

The tyranny of distance

Vast distances and a lack of support can make the emotional journey of IVF even more challenging for people living in the bush.

Many are spending thousands on accommodation and travel, and taking time off work, so they can access treatment in the city.

The nearest fertility clinic is often a day's drive away.

A lack of local specialists means it takes up to 12 months to get an appointment with a "flying" gynaecologist in western Queensland.

"You see a specialist or make an appointment and they say, 'you're way out in the bush, so we'll do it by Skype or Zoom'," Mr Thiedeke said.

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He said his property didn't have mobile service and the internet wasn't strong enough to support a video call.

"It doesn't help living in the middle of nowhere. Everything is easier on the coast.

"For Emma, it's an hour's drive into town just to talk to somebody. There's no going for walks with friends or anything like that."

In a final bid to become parents, the Thiedekes have sold their house in Rockhampton and accessed their superannuation to purchase donor eggs.

This week, they're packing up their bags and travelling 12 hours away to Brisbane to have them fertilised and transferred.

The couple aren't ready to give up their dream of becoming parents, but the trip is their last hope.

"It's probably nearly make or break," Mr Thiedeke said.

"If you don't get much success this time, then there isn't any other option. We're throwing everything at it."

1,600km round trips for a scan

At least one in six Australians will experience infertility during their lifetime.

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Experts say the number of patients accessing IVF from the bush is also on the rise.

Monash IVF fertility specialist Ashish Das said about 50 per cent of his patients travelled from remote areas to his Townsville clinic.

"Fertility is not a one-step treatment," Dr Das said.

"It requires multiple visits and multiple investigations along the whole journey before you get to the treatment stage."

Telehealth options are available, but a lack of regional clinics means 1,600km round trips to undergo a scan are a common occurrence.

"A big part of fertility treatment does require [patients] to come into the cities and we try to minimise that as much as possible," Dr Das said.

He said the stress and pressure of travelling long distances and being away from support networks for weeks on end was too much for some.

"Patients do drop out of IVF for a whole lot of reasons; distance, the logistics of doing things is a cause," he said.

"The ones that may have dropped out are the ones that have maybe had an unsuccessful cycle and found the journey arduous for them."

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Costs add up

Although a small portion of IVF is covered by Medicare, the financial cost of treatment can stack up.

Victoria and New South Wales offer subsidies to those going through fertility treatment.

But in Queensland, the cost of treatment and travel leaves many out of pocket.

Longreach mother-of-two Rebecca Fleming said she had spent nearly $50,000 and was able to get about $17,000 back from Medicare.

The 38-year-old underwent two cycles of IVF eight hours away in Rockhampton before falling pregnant with her first child.

"You've got fuel, you've got accommodation because you can't just drive eight hours away, see a doctor, drive eight hours home," Ms Fleming said.

"You need to spend the night at least.

"Then there's time off work."

Ms Fleming said while the isolation and stigma of IVF took a toll, holding her baby was the greatest ending.

"There's so many things that can go wrong with IVF… I don't think I felt good about it all until I held my baby," she said.

"It's actually two years to the day that we had a transfer and to think two years ago this was a blob of cells that's now a toddler running around wrecking things."

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