Volunteers relive trauma

2016-12-13 06:01

Saving lives during late night shifts, traumatic situations and bringing new life into the world are just some of the memories of the founding members of the False Bay Volunteer Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Born out of the need for an emergency and ambulance service in the far south, the False Bay Volunteer EMS has weathered numerous changes in the community and health sector.

The EMS celebrated its 21st anniversary this year, with a function held on Saturday (“Volunteers serve changing needs”, People’s Post, 6 December).

Founder David Behr says: “In the early days there were only a few of us with pagers and we would respond from home during the week if we were available. We had no cellphones, no defibrillator – very little equipment, in fact.”

But this did not stop the service from flourishing.

Chops Craig, one of the founding members, remembers how he responded to over 800 calls in just one year.

The organisation helped in 10 833 cases between 1995 and 2007, explains False Bay Volunteer EMS chairperson Robert de Wet.

Fellow founding member Allan James remembers how the volunteers performed CPR on a patient for 45 minutes. “During this period, while carrying out CPR, I continued to talk to the patient to come back to life. After a few days in ICU the patient asked his wife to tell him who was the person that kept telling him not to go and come back. A few weeks later I received a letter saying thank you for saving his life.”

They also assisted in the birth of a child, James recalls, which resulted in him getting an injury of his own.

“I experienced the power a pregnant woman has during her delivery by holding her hand during her contractions. She squeezed my hand so hard, she broke my middle finger and would not let go of my hand. So every time she had her contractions I screamed with her. On arrival at hospital the doctor just laughed and strapped up my hand, and then we got a call to a car accident with many patients. Only after booking off shift did my broken finger really start throbbing.”

“I have a lot of very fond memories,” says Behr. “The camaraderie of the volunteers, the friendships and alliances that were formed and still last (a little bit like our very own Days of our Lives) and, of course, the families with whom we interacted during our call-outs and the funny incidents that that we saw,” he says.

Some of the chuckles they had on duty included a “dear, very old lady” who said in a quavering voice after a car accident on Red Hill in which her friend had been driving: “I told that woman that she was too old to drive!”

However, there were some call-outs that become very traumatic for the EMS volunteer, James adds. “When a patient dies in your care you can appreciate how important life is and it’s so important to teach young children to respect the life of all people.”V For more information or to get involved email info@­falsebayems.co.za.

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