for tomorrow

NMMU News

22/05/2015

NMMU’s Emergency Medical Care (EMC) programme manager Nico Louw was reminded to practice what he preached to his students, when he joined the Gift of the Givers Foundation on their recent search and rescue mission to Nepal.

“In the EMC programme we have 12 core values we teach our students to live by. On this mission I was especially challenged by the value which encourages you to step outside your comfort zone,” says Nico.

Nico formed part of the 80-strong volunteer team which travelled to Nepal after a devastating earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, left over 9000 people dead and thousands more injured and destitute.

The team, made up of search and rescue personnel, paramedics, doctors, surgeons and nurses participated in a week-long Nepal mission and served alongside hundreds of volunteers from around the globe.

“There were so many volunteers, I’ve never seen so many cargo planes in my life as the dozens of massive cargo planes flocking together onto the small Kathmandu airport to deliver aid. I felt so proud to be part of the global village” says Nico. 

He has been involved with Gift of the Givers since  the Haiti earthquake in 2010. This South African organisation’s main focus is humanitarian and medical assistance, yet since the Haiti earthquake a search and rescue capability was established to join the team.

Despite the challenges of language, culture, religious barriers and the inconvenience of a three-day delay of their baggage and equipment, Nico says their mission was a great success.

Nico describes how he took the initiative to chop bamboo to construct a stretcher to assist them until their equipment arrived. However, despite all his trouble, he never got to use the stretcher because he was alerted to the fact that culturally, only dead bodies are carried on bamboo stretches and it would be very inappropriate to be used otherwise. 

“Every mission is incredibly different and the experience gained far outweighs textbook knowledge.”

After day  four the search and rescue team  shifted their focus towards helping the medical team to treat the hundreds of injured patients in the overloaded hospitals.

“Our medical skills were of great use and among others, our two wound specialists were able to equip the Nepalese nurses with new skills to continue with better care even after we left.”

“NMMU’s EMC students obtain an excellent skills set and are educated in both rescue and medical  capabilities, making them prime candidates to assist with future missions”.

“I appreciate NMMU’s support and granting me the time off. I’m very thankful”.

If  anybody wishes to get involved with the Gift of the Givers Foundation and their future missions, please contact Nico Louw at nico.louw@nmmu.ac.za or visit http://giftofthegivers.org/.

Prospective Bachelor of Emergency Medical Care student Clifford Hanks, an intermediate life support paramedic (right), accompanied by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s paramedic degree programme co-ordinator Nico Louw, gets insight into some of the ongoing training that the new degree will offer its students in conjunction with voluntary organisations, like the Mountain Club of South Africa. The new four-year degree began last year.