Heroic paramedic nominated for award

Friday, May 29, 2009

Komatipoort - Mpumalanga's Department of Health and Social Services has nominated a Komatipoort paramedic for the national Centrum Guardian Project Award.

Paramedic Mcimbi Mashiyi, 25, saved the life of Ayanda Shabangu, 20, from the Mangweni village when the ambulance they were travelling in plunged off a bridge and into a river on 7 May.

Ms Shabangu was being transported to the Tonga Hospital. It had been raining and the ambulance driver swerved to avoid a tractor, losing control of the vehicle.

"Luckily I learnt to swim as a teenager, otherwise we would have drowned and been eaten by crocodiles," said Mr Mashiyi.

"My first thought was to save my patient's life. I opened the back door, put the patient over my shoulder and started swimming to the river bank. I still can't believe we made it out alive, because that river is full of hippos and crocodiles."

Ms Shabangu, a domestic worker from Marloth Park near Komatipoort, said she thought she was going to die when she felt the water rushing into the ambulance.

"The next thing I knew, I was being carried out of the river by Mr Mashiyi. I want to thank him for being so brave and saving me without any hesitation," she added.

Her healthy son was born later that night without complications and she aptly named him Lucky.

Departmental spokesperson Mpho Gabashane said: "We have already entered his name for the awards."

The Centrum Guardian Project recognises and rewards individuals or teams who go beyond the call of duty.

Finalists of the awards will be announced on 1 November and the winners will be announced in December.

The judging panel includes representatives from ER24, the National Committee on Emergency Medical Services, National Sea Rescue Institute, Netcare 911, Southern African Emergency Services Institute, SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service, The Institute of Fire Engineers and Wyeth Consumer Healthcare.

Mr Mashiyi's supervisor, Gibson Sibambo, who manages the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) stations at Tonga, Komatipoort, Schoemansdal and Malalane, promised to give him all the support he needed to win the title.

"We are going to vote for him big time. I hope he is going to make it due to the good work he has done," said Sibambo on Thursday.

He said Mr Mashiyi was his youngest paramedic and was hired only last year.

"If you're in the EMS, you know what it's like to be under pressure," he said. "When lives are on the line, there is no time to fear for your own safety. Most people would think twice about running into a burning building, jumping into a raging sea or being on call around the clock to save the lives of total strangers.

"But the brave men and women of the EMS aren't like most people. Every day they risk it all, pushing themselves to the limit to get the job done, but every day their stories of courage and selflessness go unnoticed and unrewarded," said Mr Sibambo