In the business of life saving

Real-life superheroes to the rescue

Monday, June 30 2014

They don’t come clad in the bright red and blue colours of Superman, nor do they have superhuman strength or X-ray vision, but just like the beloved superheroes of children and adults the world over, Netcare 911 paramedics take their calling very seriously and always strive to save lives.

“That is why Netcare 911 is widely acknowledged as a leader in the field of emergency medical services in South Africa. Recently, Netcare 911 paramedics have been involved in a number of rescues that demonstrate what our company stands for and that every single life is important to us,” says Craig Grindell, chief operating officer of Netcare 911.

The case of Johannesburg resident and mother-of-two, Gerna du Plessis is a case in point. She experienced a severe allergic reaction and went into anaphylactic shock after licking the spoon she used to give her youngest child a dose of antibiotics.

Because she had never experienced an allergic reaction before, Gerna did not know what was happening to her when her palms started to get very itchy and her face and tongue began to swell. She managed to get hold of her husband who rushed home to find Gerna lying on the floor. He immediately phoned the Netcare 911 emergency operations centre on 082 911, and the operator quickly dispatched a medical response team to their home. Zelda Larkins, an advanced life support paramedic, was first on the scene. “Upon arrival, the patient was unresponsive and was in urgent need of adrenaline which I am qualified to administer.”

Larkins arrived in the nick of time and the medical team at Netcare Olivedale Hospital is in no doubt that she and her Netcare 911 colleagues, Jaydi Smith and Romeo Phiri, saved the day, ensuring that Gerna made a full recovery. “If we had arrived just five minutes later, Gerna would most probably have died, leaving her two young children to grow up without a mother,” says Larkins.

But it is not only people who benefit from Netcare 911’s emergency services. Netcare 911 paramedics often go out of their way to help animals who also happen to experience a medical emergency, often alongside their human counterparts.

When the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) near Edenvale in Johannesburg caught fire, Natasha Bickerton and Sherry-lee van der Berg, two fearless Netcare 911 students studying to be advanced life support paramedics, not only put out the fire but also went out of their way to protect the animals and people in and around the facility.

Bickerton and Van der Berg were studying for their midterm exams when they smelled smoke coming from the SPCA across the road. “We went to investigate what was going on and saw that the SPCA was engulfed by flames. The smoke was so thick that we couldn’t even see each other, it was chaos,” recalls Bickerton.

According to an eyewitness, the two women disappeared into the smoke, grabbed hosepipes and literally climbed up the ladders and walls to put out the fire. “We must have fought the fire for about an hour before we could bring it under control, we’re just glad none of the animals or people in the area was hurt,” says van der Berg.

“This is the type of selfless bravery in the face of danger that affords Netcare 911 paramedics the status of real-life superheroes,” says Grindell.

In an incident similar to that of Pepper, the eight-week-old kitten, who was saved by Netcare 911 paramedics after he almost died in a fire that burned down the house where he was living, Netcare 911 paramedics recently saved three African Grey parrots from burning to death in a fire that decimated the building in KwaZulu-Natal where they were being kept. Had it not been for Netcare 911 paramedic, Max Shepherd, administering oxygen to the three birds and comforting them after their ordeal, they would no longer be around to entertain their owner’s family and friends with their antics and quirky sayings. Pepper, the kitten that was rescued earlier, had also inhaled a lot of smoke and was given oxygen and kept warm to stabilise him before the team of paramedics took him to a vet. Netcare 911 paramedic, Kelsey Shone, thereafter took little Pepper into her home and regularly gave him intensive physiotherapy to help him walk again.

“We are proud of the brave and heroic deeds of our Netcare 911 paramedics who save countless lives on a daily basis. These men and women give their all to give people and even animals a second chance at life, and that is truly what makes them real-life superheroes,” concludes Grindell.

Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) for Netcare 911
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Sarah Beswick, Graeme Swinney or Jillian Penaluna
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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