He knew this rescue would be a race against time, but that just meant he’d have to work quicker!
Richard Schouten didn’t choose a career as a paramedic. It chose him. At the age of five, Schouten could be found running around the back yard with a teddy bear in a toy wheel barrow, making siren noises. Today, and with more than 16 years’ experience as an advanced life support paramedic under his belt, the 39-year-old father of two is a hero after he risked his own life, to save the life of another. Schouten was having dinner when an emergency call came through. A toxic gas had engulfed the cargo hold of a ship, likely caused by the ship’s load of woodchips becoming damp. Two stowaway detection officers had been rendered unconscious by the fumes. Schouten rushed home and grabbed his rescue gear before quickly driving to Richards Bay port.
“As I arrived I saw there were two breathing apparatus sets on deck, the same type used by the fire department. There was also a ducted fan pumping fresh air into a small manhole entrance.” Schouten rigged a safety rope, donned the breathing apparatus and entered the entrance. He knew this rescue would be a race against time as the breathing apparatus (SCBA) held only eight to 10 minutes of air.
“When I reached the first man he was struggling for breath,” says Schouten. “His mouth and nose were covered in bubbly secretions. I knew his lungs were flooding with fluid and he was suffocating. I tied the rope around the patient and the crew members on the deck were then able to retrieve the victim. The second man was lying in a difficult position, was not breathing and had no pulse.”
Working quickly and staying calm, Schoulten was able to free the second man, but sadly, he was declared dead at the scene.
“I haven’t had any interaction with the man whose life I managed to save and who went on to make a full recovery, but I have continued to see the family of the man whose life was tragically lost.”
Richard is one of 16 semi-finalists selected for the 2012 Centrum Guardian Project – a social responsibility initiative by Centrum, that recognises and rewards the acts of courage and self-sacrifice that the people who operate in the Emergency Services industry demonstrate whenever they put their uniforms on and go to work each day. To vote for him, sms ‘Skill’ to 33123. Proceeds from sms votes will be donated to Richard’s Base Station. Smses are charged at R1.50. Terms and conditions apply. The competition runs until October 12, 2012. Details: www.centrumguardian.com.
Richard Schouten, paramedic, Centrum Guardian Project, rescue, Richards Bay port