Paramedic vows to ‘pay it forward’ after life-saving intervention

Walter Molife cannot wait to serve his community again after near-fatal shooting

A paramedic who recently suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound will soon be back at work to help save lives once more, thanks to the intervention of his Netcare 911 colleagues, a highly skilled surgeon and the staff of Netcare uMhlanga Hospital.

The last thing 38-year-old Netcare 911 basic life support practitioner, Walter Molife, expected while he was relaxing off duty on Easter Monday, was to wake up in Netcare uMhlanga Hospital several days later having been critically injured in a shooting incident outside his local shisinyama, a food outlet in Pinetown.

Netcare 911 regional operations manager for KwaZulu-Natal, Gary Paul, describes Walter, who will celebrate 11 years of service with Netcare 911 in May, as “an esteemed, dedicated and passionate paramedic”.

“Walter loves his work and has helped to save countless lives over the years. He is a gentle, caring man and is a deeply valued friend and colleague to all of us. It came as a shock to the entire team when we heard that Walter, who is well known and a pillar of his community, had been critically injured through a violent criminal act,” he says.

“We found out that Walter had been transported to the closest hospital for emergency care after the near-fatal shooting and that he was not doing well. Walter has been such an asset to emergency medical services in this region, and we wanted to do everything within our power to help one of our own in his time of need.

“When the team and I arrived at the hospital, we found Walter in a critical condition. Due to the nature of his injuries, Walter required advanced life support care including being placed on number of drips and a ventilator. Once he was sufficiently stable, we transported him to Netcare uMhlanga Hospital for the highly specialised care that he so desperately needed,” Paul explains.

At Netcare uMhlanga Hospital, surgeon Dr Mohamed Aslam Noorbhai, who has been practising at the hospital since 2015, was ready and waiting to attend to Walter’s trauma injuries.

“Due to the nature and severity of his injuries, Mr Molife was critical upon admission and his initial prognosis was poor,” Dr Noorbhai says. “He had suffered multiple traumatic injuries and had gunshot wounds both through the left side of his chest and his lower abdomen.”

“His injuries included an open chest wound, a punctured lung, several lacerations to his diaphragm, stomach, pancreas, small intestines and colon, there was approximately two litres of blood in his abdomen, a litre of blood in his chest cavity, as well as an open wound to his abdomen.”

According to Dr Noorbhai, the patient required immediate “damage control” emergency surgery and subsequent procedures, as well as intensive care as part of his initial recovery. “This technique includes the control of all bleeding and contamination in an effort to avoid the ‘lethal triad’: acidosis, hypothermia and coagulopathy.”

The ‘lethal triad’ consists of three dimensions that can compromise the recovery of patients who have sustained severe injuries. The first, acidosis, refers to an excessively acidity of the body fluids or tissues, which prevents the kidneys and lungs from maintaining a healthy pH balance in the body. The second, hypothermia, refers to a potentially fatal reduction in core body temperature, while coagulopathy affects how blood clots, and it is characterised by prolonged and excessive bleeding.

“The emphasis was on trying to reduce the chances of Mr Molife developing multiple-organ dysfunction. During the second operation, the focus was on restoring his anatomy and repairing all remaining wounds,” Dr Noorbhai explains.

“It is noteworthy that the trauma management, at the time of the incident, coincided with a blood shortage. The teams needed to be efficient and effective from the initial treatment of the patient to his discharge from the hospital,” stresses Dr Noorbhai.

Walter says that he is especially grateful to Netcare, his Netcare 911 colleagues and Dr Noorbhai for their care and lifesaving intervention. “If not for my colleagues at Netcare 911, the doctor and his team, I would not be here today. It’s a miracle that I am alive; I woke from the grave.”

Once he has made a full recovery, Walter wishes to continue serving his community as a paramedic. “I want to live to be a 150-year-old, and I want to go on and save as many lives as possible,” he said while recovering in hospital.

Dr Noorbhai says Mr Molife was admitted on 2 April and discharged on 20 April 2018. “His current prognosis is excellent. He is now fully mobile and has regained his appetite.”

Marc van Heerden, general manager of Netcare uMhlanga Hospital, confirmed that Walter was discharged from the hospital after nearly three weeks in hospital. “Having worked as an advanced life support paramedic for over 20 years myself, I know that each aspect of the continuum of care is vital to achieving the best possible outcome for a patient,” he adds.

“If it had not been for the prompt response and treatment of Gary and the Netcare 911 team, the clinical management he received in our emergency department’s trauma unit and the amazing work of Dr Noorbhai, Walter may not have been in a position to continue his vocation for saving lives. We are delighted that he has made such excellent progress and that we were able to play a role in his recovery,” Van Heerden concludes.