Saving lives is a calling for Durban paramedic

2015-12-24 20:11
Medic AJ Gareep stabilises a patient north of Durban. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

Medic AJ Gareep stabilises a patient north of Durban. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

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Durban – Their first call of the day is to Durban’s Nkobongo township, where a young boy has fallen off his bicycle while speeding down a hill. Getting there requires all of IPSS Medical Rescue paramedic AJ Gareeb’s driving skills as he navigates traffic at high speed.

When they arrive, a group of about 20 local women is standing around the boy. AJ has an immediate grasp of the situation and calms everyone down.

"Let me have a look at him m’am. Can you tell me what exactly occurred here? AJ asks calmly. The boy has sustained minor injuries, including a wound on his head. A sense of "it is going to be okay" spreads through the crowd as Gareeb gets to work him.

It is the start of a relatively uneventful day for the crew, but they attend to even minor incidents with care and professionalism.

Since it was founded in 2012, the IPSS paramedic wing has gained a steady reputation north of Durban for efficiency, compassion and reliability. Gareeb, an advanced life support medic with over a decade of experience, is a humble man who exudes a sense of stability and strength.

'We do not receive gratitude or expect it'

Gareeb says he has learnt to distance himself from his work.

"I think sometimes, as paramedics, we forget that most of the world lives very different lives. We are forced to emotionally distance ourselves from many disturbing things we observe on a daily basis. But I need to find a way to go home and be a father and a husband.

"I approach every scene relatively the same way. I go in knowing I have to get the job done.

"You can be overwhelmed with so much at these scenes, sometimes with multiple patients. But at the end of the day, you start with one person and keep on trying. This is not a job for people to make a living or try to make a name for themselves. This is a calling to help."

While buying hamburgers from a restaurant at Westbrook beach, north of Durban, a young man approaches AJ and his crew. He has a large shard of glass in the sole of his foot. AJ does not hesitate to help him. Leaving him to spend the day at the beach with a bleeding foot is out of the question. 

As part of the company’s social responsibility initiative, they do not charge for some of their work.

"There are some people that can afford to pay and those that cannot. Of course we need to make money, but we are also here to help people. That is a priority. Just helping. We do not receive gratitude or expect it," he says.

"You definitely do not do this for the money. We are not related to the people we attend to.

"At the end of the day all every good medic wants to do is save a life. Nothing is more important. It doesn’t matter if your shift is about to end or if you are at home fast asleep.

"When you are called, lives hang in the balance. You just go."

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