Paramedics are used to being at the forefront of emergencies. When a call comes in you respond as fast as possible to ensure that the patient has a fighting chance to live.
But what if the paramedic becomes the patient?
Coenrad Bronkhorst (27) is a Basic Life Support (BLS) paramedic at the ER24 Vaal branch.
Most of his family are also involved in the medical industry. After completing school at Vaalpark High School he went to work at a power station in Ermelo but soon realised this is not for him. He followed in the footsteps of the rest of his family because it felt like the best thing to do.
“Every day is a new day with new experiences. You have to be prepared for the worst. If you want to cry, cry. If you want to laugh, laugh. To know every day that I’ve saved a life makes me feel proud of my work. There are people looking up to us that trust us to help them in need. It really is rewarding,” said Bronkhorst.
The night things changed
On the night of the 17th of March Coenrad and his partner Crescendo Dillion Lee responded to a collision on the R553 close to the old Golden Highway in Vanderbijlpark.
‘I had a bad feeling that night that something was going to happen to me or one of my family members. I dropped my mother at my brother’s house just in case I didn’t make it back home and then I went to work,” said Bronkhorst.
“My partner and I still joked that this road is very dark and that we should be careful.
“When we arrived at the scene we saw one car lying on its side and another car in the bushes. A woman was screaming hysterically and crying. There were lots of people on the scene.
“First I started placing the road cones in the road. Then I got into the ambulance to assist my partner. While we were in the ambulance a bakkie drove into us from the back and the impact was so hard that I was thrown against a sharp edge inside the ambulance. As a result of this my kidney had burst,” said Bronkhorst.
At this point Lee made sure that the first patient was attended to and then he found Bronkhorst on the grass in pain. He put him on a drip and gave him some pain medication while waiting for back up.
Bronkhorst only woke up in ICU six days after the event. He had undergone two operations whereby his kidney, that was torn in two, was removed.
“When I woke up I was in shock and very emotional. My family was very worried. ER24 stood by me through all of this.
“My lifestyle has changed since I lost the kidney. I love to braai and eat red meat but I have to cut this out of my diet to ensure that I stay healthy,” said Bronkhorst.
It isn’t only Bronkhorst whose life changed dramatically. His partner also learnt a lesson or two out of this experience.
“Even if you do everything according to the book. Something can still go wrong.
“I prefer not to stay on a scene too long. I want to get moving as soon as possible. My approach to a scene, such as where I parked with the ambulance, has changed. I am a lot more safety conscious now. I am even more passionate about saving lives after seeing my partner in his position,” said Lee.
His dreams at ER24
Although Bronkhorst went through quite an ordeal this hasn’t deterred him from still saving lives.
He dreams of becoming a pilot.
“It is one of my biggest dreams. I want to fly a helicopter for emergency services,” said Bronkhorst.
Bronkhorst even received his torn paramedic uniform, framed as a gift, from his branch and colleagues.
“We appreciate all that he has done. We will continue to support him as a branch and as colleagues. He is just one of those people who you want to be around. He makes you look forward to your shifts at work and every call you go out on. The little gift is a reminder of what each and every medic faces when they turn up for work.,” said John Ramcharan, ER24 Vaal branch manager.
Bronkhorst’s first day back on duty will be on the 7th of June.
ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd. t/a ER24