Helicopter crash: ‘Medics died in the pursuit to save a life’

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Blomme en kerse op die helikopterlandingstrook by die Netcare Milpark-hospitaal in Johannesburg.  Foto: Verskaf
Blomme en kerse op die helikopterlandingstrook by die Netcare Milpark-hospitaal in Johannesburg. Foto: Verskaf


A man not afraid of hard work, whose strong work ethic was made all the more inspiring by his willingness to not only teach but always learn and be a shoulder to lean on.

This is how colleagues and friends of Dr Kgopotso Rudolf Mononyane said they would remember him on Friday.

Speaking to City Press they added that his devotion to his work as one of the country’s highly respected anaesthetists was only rivalled by his fierce love and devotion to his wife Khomotso and his children.

Mononyane and his colleagues died tragically on Thursday afternoon after the rescue helicopter they were in crashed near Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal. Dr Curnick Siyabonga Mahlangu (a cardiothoracic surgeon) and Mpho Xaba (a specialist theatre nurse), Sinjin Joshua Farrance, an advanced life support paramedic at Netcare 911 and pilot, Mark Stoxreiter all perished.

netcare, helikopter-ongeluk
English Bo is Mark Stoxreiter, vlieënier en Sinjin Joshua Farrance, ‘n spesialis paramedikus. Onder van links is Mpho Xaba, ‘n spesialis verpleegster en drs. Curnick Mahlangu en Rudolf Monanyane van die Netcare Milpark-hospitaal in Johannesburg ? Above are Mark Stoxreiter, pilot, and Sinjin Joshua Farrance, a specialist paramedic. Bottom left is Mpho Xaba, a specialist nurse and drs. Curnick Mahlangu and Rudolf Monanyane from Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg. Picture: Facebook/Paramedics

They died in the pursuit to save a life.

According to Netcare CEO Dr Richard Friedland they were en route to Hillcrest in Durban to transfer a critically ill patient to Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg for specialised care.

Mononyane’s team had earlier tried to resuscitate Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, who later died on Thursday from Covid-19 coronavirus-related complications.

READ: Limpopo ambulances line up to drop off Covid-19 patients: ‘This has become a huge, huge crisis’

Dr Lance Lasersohn, president of the SA Society of Anaesthesiologists (Sasa), recounted how he first met Mononyane while working as an intensive care consultant at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto in 2006. Mononyane was specialising in anaesthesia.

“My first impression was of a doctor and person that was not afraid of hard work, was inquisitive, competent and willing to learn what we all have to learn as anaesthesiologists about intensive care. He spent three months in the ICU [as is the required training time]. Obviously, we had our anaesthetic connection but during this time we became friends,” Lasersohn said.

“We both understood our roles and the jobs we were doing, but connected with similar life principles and goals – of integrity, ethics, a strong sense of right and wrong, treating people fairly, not tolerating less than someone’s best and particularly intolerant of anything that compromises quality patient care.”

Dr Caroline Corbett, vice president of Sasa, who studied medicine with Mononyane at Wits University, said they met again on the Wits anaesthesia training circuit where they both qualified as specialists. She also worked with him at Bara as consultants.

“Rudolf was a mentor and a friend, an inspiration in his work ethic and an honourable gentleman who represented and embodied all of what one should aspire to be as a clinician and as a person,” Corbett said.

“He was ambitious, driven and hardworking and set standards for himself that were constantly raised as he proceeded to set the bar higher and higher with each of his many well-deserved and hard-earned achievements,” she said.

There is no greater act of humanity than to lose one’s life attempting to rescue another
Netcare CEO Dr Richard Friedland

Both doctors said that Mononyane was also “extremely giving of his time” – as, on top of a gruelling work schedule, he continued to deliver high quality lecturers to the profession. He served in Sasa’s council from 2012 until last year. He was also an active member of the private practice business unit of Sasa to ensure professional standards and clinical care of patient were maintained and protected.

As the Covid-19 pandemic started to take firm hold of the country, particularly during the current second wave, Corbett and Lasersohn spoke of how Mononyane put his hand up to participate in Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) teams which offer patients the highly specialised therapy to save lives.

“ECMO is a means by which we can take the patient’s blood from their body, add oxygen to it, and deliver it back to the body when they are no longer able to do so for themselves due to severe lung injury. This can only be delivered in a few specialised centres in the country which is why we need these teams to fetch patients in order to deliver them to the units for care.

“This means being called at any time, leaving what you are doing, to bring patients to an ECMO centre to receive a therapy reserved to rescue the sickest of the sick. He did so without question and his sacrifice and that of his family was beyond measure,” the doctors said.

Addressing the Netcare staff on Friday, Friedland said: “There is no greater act of humanity than to lose one’s life attempting to rescue another. We know God uses good people to do great things ... and we need not look any further than these young, talented, extraordinary individuals who embody what it means to be a hero.”

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize added: “This is a tragic loss that has robbed the country of such highly skilled professionals who were prepared to put the lives of others before their own … this country has weathered the Covid-19 storm because of the sheer dedication of professionals such as these.”


Vuyo Mkize 

Health Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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