Running into a burning building to pull unconscious people out is arguably a daunting idea for trained and equipped firefighters, never mind for regular medics. But apparently that terrifying challenge is no match for medics whose service is run by people with a surname that is the Afrikaans word for fire, as we were shown recently by the actions of the Emergency Medical Rescue crew in Hermanus, run by Leon and Anna Brand.
An elderly couple were at their home in Sandbaai, at around 20:00 on the 5th of August this year, when the gas heater they were using during load shedding had a gas leak that caused flames to erupt suddenly. Despite attempts by the husband to put out the flames, fire started to engulf the house. Their care nurse who was on duty with them (who remains unnamed) managed to contact the emergency services at this point, with the fastest response time coming from EMR.
EMR’s response vehicle and ambulance both arrived at the scene. Leon Brand, the Advanced Life Support Medic of the crew and owner of EMR, says that he could see flames coming out of the roof of the house. He and his shift partner, Sinethenba Sotho (Basic Life Support medic), managed to gain entry to the burning house, where all three occupants were lying unconscious on the floor. They then carried each one of them out to safety and loaded them into their ambulance.
Thanks to the swift entry and exit of Brand and Sotho, they and the occupants of the house all survived, although not completely unharmed. Suffering from smoke inhalation, and both Brand and Sotho had to undergo oxygen therapy and nebulisation in hospital. Brand also required physiotherapy, which the son of the elderly couple very kindly paid for out of his own pocket to say thank you.
The son, who lives in the UK, also offered to arrange trauma counselling for the crew. Brand said that once he was in hospital and fully realised what had happened, it was hard to hold back from sharing tears with his wife Anna, despite not normally being very emotional. He also said that he felt deeply moved during later conversations with the elderly couple’s son, who showed a lot of gratitude, and also after being able to visit the elderly couple and see that they were doing well for himself.