- by Debbie Jane Winstanley
‘Words. So powerful. They can crush a heart or heal it. They can shame a soul, or liberate it. They can shatter a dream, or liberate it. They can obstruct connect, or invite it. They can create defenses, or melt them. We have to use words wisely’ Jeff Brown
Glowing embers of the evening braai formed a stark contrast to the night sky. The banter amongst the night crew ranged from the latest sport scores to the best butchery to buy your steak. Almost overseeing the braai chefs stood ROCKET1, checked and ready for any potential call out. As Murphy would have it, half way through dinner the all too familiar ‘PING’ – ‘activate for primary’. These three words set the night crew in motion; the light-hearted chatter replaced with final checks as the crew make their way to ROCKET1, steaks forgotten.
We had been called to a motor vehicle accident; this one of such serious nature two helicopters were required for transportation of patients to appropriate facilities. It was also month end, and simultaneous multiple incidences had spread ground crew thin resulting in few hands available for assistance on scene.
On landing I was directed towards a vehicle and told; ‘watch your 6 (back)’, the weight of these words felt with the volatile crowd two helicopters had attracted. I was introduced to a young lady *Mary. She had been seated in the back of the vehicle, where maximum impact had occurred. Mary was in severe pain due to fractures and needed extrication from the vehicle she was trapped in. She had also just been told that she would be transported to hospital in a helicopter. Her first words to me were ‘I am scared of the helicopter and will my legs be okay? Her moments of terror post car accident and the pain from her injuries were clouded by the fear of transport by a helicopter and the possibility of life changing injuries and shattered life dreams. Her pain can be easily relieved, broken bones stabilized and wounds bandaged, but there is no aid in our jump or drug bag to ease personal fear.
After handing Mary over at the receiving facility I leant over to say good bye. ‘You kept your promise’, she told me; ‘You never left me and gave me hope.’ It is in those moments we realize that emergency medicine has no boundaries; that no textbook teaches the right words and that often, our words are remembered by the patient above any medical treatment. Tonight I am glad our words gave Mary hope.
specialist facility. On arrival, the doctor-paramedic team found Kathleho to have a serious head injury and fractured right femur. The ground crew up to this stage were unsuccessful in securing Kathleho airway, but the helicopter crew proceeded to secure this and stabilise him for Rapid Air transport to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital
On arrival at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Kathleho was handed over to the Trauma Team for specialised definitive care. Hopefully Kathleho can play outside again soon.
*name changed for confidentiality reasons
- by Shay-Lee Knox
Hi to all readers
I am Shay-Lee Knox (Labuschagne) my dad George Labuschagne has been a paramedic since I was born. I am 15 and I am in grade 9. My dad is a very dedicated paramedic and through his career he has tried other careers, however, he always goes back to being a paramedic. At the moment during the day he works with my cousins as an orthopaedic solutions consultant (AOS). He attends operations and assists doctors in complicated orthopaedic surgery. At night or early morning he is a paramedic for Rocket H.E.M.S (helicopter emergency medical service). My dad has studied extensively and has achieved many accomplishments during his time in the paramedic field including obtaining his wings which allow him to work and assist on the emergency helicopters.
I am very proud to be his daughter and stand by him through his accomplishments and struggles. I don’t think he understands how honoured I am to say that my dad helps and saves other people’s lives every day. As you will understand from this article my dad spends a lot of time at work and often misses special occasions, but that doesn’t make me feel sad because I know that he is doing the right thing and sacrificing his own time and pleasures to assist and support those in need.
I do at times worry that he may be injured rushing to an emergency, attending a volatile medical situation or flying in the helicopter but I need to take this in my stride. I need to remind myself that it takes a lot of strength and courage on his side to deal with the daily trauma of his patients and to face some of the situations that he finds himself in. As a result I try not to burden him with the concerns that I have because I don’t feel that way all the time and I have learned that he adds such value to the community and that outweighs my concerns.
I feel that my dad is truly a special person and the time that he does get to spend with Astin, my brother Dagan, little sister Gia and I is filled with love and laughter. He truly is one of a kind and he really understands us in ways that no one else will. He strives all the time to make Astin and us kids happy and feel comfortable to discuss anything we need with him. Both he and Astin are not only our parents, but our best friends.
I would also like to take the time to thank the pilots that safely carry the patients, my father and his fellow paramedics. The dedication of my dad and of a team of this nature is something that has added value to my character and my wanting to strive to be a successful professional one day, irrespective of what field of study I choose to follow.
I salute every hard working paramedic whether it be in the sky, on the ocean or on land - you are truly all brave warriors.
Written with love by
- by Dr Joji Mercier
The 4 am alarm comes too quickly. Fall out of bed and shrug sleep-leaden limbs into a crisp clean flight-suit. Brush teeth; wash face; feed the dogs. The flight bag stands ready, prepared the evening before with years of learned hacks and help-outs-in-a-tight-corner. Drive into the not-yet morning of the not-yet-summer darkness, towards the hanger, into a day which can hold anything: nursing the travel-coffee as it cheer-leads motivation into each cell.
The neon light of the crew-room never flatters the washed-out night-shift faces handing over the baton. Summary of stock used, replenished items, levels of on-board oxygen cylinders, battery-charge on the defibrillator and ventilator. Tones hushed, the transition of arriving and departing; of beginning and ending. The merging and separation of energies in the helicopter emergency medicine world: the coffee machine grinding out the whirring soundtrack to the choreographed interactions.
- by Caleb Cage
Life is a delicate, fragile thing. Unfortunately, John* found this out the hard way when a tyre on his vehicle burst during a late-night work delivery. His vehicle rolled, leaving him with a head injury and broken neck. Not only did this immediately threaten his life, but also his future ability to walk, talk and lead a normal life.
After the accident, John was taken to a nearby hospital for stabilisation. Unfortunately, due to the extent of his injuries, he required specialist care from a Johannesburg hospital which was hours away by road. Enter ROCKET HEMS, which cut the travel time by 75%. John was flown to Johannesburg successfully where the care he so desperately needed was initiated. He was given hope to get back to his normal life.
While reflecting on this flight, I thought to myself, “Why in the world would I spend the night away from my family to work in the early hours of the morning for some guy I don’t know?” It was bitterly cold. I was tired. Work is hard. But the reason is actually quite simple. Life is delicate and fragile. But it is also incredibly valuable. It is worth making sacrifices for. And so it was a privilege to be part of the ROCKET HEMS team bringing hope to John that night.
*Name changed for confidentiality.
- by Dr Anne Mercier
Yesterday was a good day. Well, not entirely in all aspects, but there was a good dash of hope, many professionals working together as a team, and a flying ROCKET of help to change the tide of things.
Thirteen-year-old Chanté* had been missing her friends at school during the COVID lock-down, but a delighted visit to her neighbour’s new puppies ended in tragedy. The protective new doggie mommy misread Chanté’s enthusiasm and attacked her to defend her babies – leaving terrible wounds on Chanté’s arms and legs. Her leg was possibly fractured, and her artery potentially torn, which could threaten blood flow to her foot. The emergency crew called to the scene stabilised her and bandaged her wounds, calling the ROCKET helicopter to speed up the transfer to the hospital for definitive care. They did a fabulous job in identifying and securing a landing zone, and keeping all the people safe while the helicopter landed and took off.
Little Chanté was enormously brave through her first helicopter ride, and learned that by putting her injured leg in a box that the pain and bleeding got much better. She secretly told the flight-doctor that her favourite animal was a unicorn. So we asked Sparkles the unicorn to lead the way through the sky, help the brave pilot to land in blowing winds, and we all delivered her safely to the hospital with a lot less pain. We left our charming young lady in very skilled hands and the watchful eye of her mystical companion.
As the sun set on another beautiful Joburg winters day, crew both in the air and on the ground went home knowing that, at least for one young lady, teamwork had made all the difference. And therefore it was indeed a good day.
* name changed for confidentiality
ROCKET 1 crewed by: Captain Abie Bezuidenhoudt, Dr Anne Mercier and Patrick Wallett
The day that we had been planning and anticipating for so many months had finally arrived...yesterday, as we pulled ROCKET 1 out of the hangar for her very first standby shift, the excitement was palpable. As the day broke, the energy in the hangar was incredible, as everyone settled into their new daily routines. What a team we have managed to unite! Our beautiful new HEMS base welcomed the day shift crew as everyone pitched in to get the last little bits and bobs moved in, and the night shift walked in to find everything ready for a good night's rest in anticipation of immediate action when required.
The journey leading up to launch day was certainly not without its challenges. To make this day happen on time and in such an incredibly smooth manner in the middle of a world-wide Covid-19 lockdown was an almost impossible task, to which our team responded with a tenacity that can only bode well for the future of our operation. At ROCKET we believe in teamwork in everything we do. From the lowest ranked medical assistant to the most senior captain, everyone is an essential part of the team, ensuring a safe operation by working together to identify and mitigate risk. In a hostile environment such as HEMS, looking out for each other is of vital importance, and can literally mean the difference between success and disaster. Our team on the very first shift consisted of Boeta Dippenaar, Patrick Wallet and Divan Meyer...a duty that will be etched in our collective memory forever.
In the cut-throat, dog-eat-dog HEMS industry, guided by our well-established values and procedures, we aim to be the friendly, caring and dependable service that can assist anyone, anywhere whenever required. When a patient needs our help, we will be there to render speedy, safe and compliant assistance - you can rest assured that you are in the very best hands. Whether you're the first paramedic on an accident scene or a doctor requiring a higher facility for patient care, we are ready and able to assist in getting your patient to the most suitable care level.
This blog will chronicle our journey - not from some fancy marketing perspective, but in the words and images of our team on the ground, providing hope to those in need of urgent medical care. We don't believe in stock images and meaningless marketing jargon - our stories are real and our service is tangible. So bookmark this page - we will be posting regularly!
And most importantly - call 087 288 55 55 in an emergency and help us write our ROCKET story!