Red Cross associate professor shares her experiences in the emergency room | Western Cape Government



Red Cross associate professor shares her experiences in the emergency room

26 August 2021

“It’s always a huge relief in the emergency room when the patients stabilise and we can send them on to the next ward or ICU knowing that they’ve turned the corner and will continue to get better,” confides Associate Professor Heloise Buys, head of Clinical Unit Ambulatory and Emergency at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

August is Women’s Month and Child Safety month, and we celebrate the women in paediatric care who are at the coal face when things go wrong.

Prof Buys is one of those remarkable women.  She recounts a story that will forever be etched into her mind. “It was one of the scariest resuscitations I’ve helped with in the trauma unit - an abandoned  new-born baby had been badly injured and was bleeding out.  There were a team of doctors working over him and I joined in the fight to save his life,” she explains. “We managed to stabilise him just long enough for him to be rushed to theatre to close all the wounds. The surgeons did an amazing job.”

“It really was touch and go in the ICU as well for a while, but he survived and recovered. In that time one of his nurses fell in love him and couldn’t bear the thought that he had no mother to love and hold him. She put her hand up, opened her heart and fostered him.  He’s done so well under her loving care. He still has to attend some clinics here as some of the injuries caused some lasting problems - but he knows he is loved and he’s very happy.”

“I have the privilege of looking after the health and emergency medical needs for children - what a privilege - they just are different and unlike adults. People often make the mistake of treating them like tiny adults - but they’re not - they are growing and developing their bodies and personalities and constantly changing (adults simply grow old!)” explains Prof Buys.

Her return to work at the iconic children’s hospital was somewhat serendipitous. Prof Buys joined the registrar training programme at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in 1997 after completing her studies in Zimbabwe. She worked in the United Kingdom for 6 years before returning to South Africa. “I was in need of a job, someone suggested I try Cape Town – I was in Limpopo living on the farms with my extended family- couldn’t believe my luck and the rest is history!” she says.

When asked to give her top tips for child safety, Prof Buys gave the following:

  1. Never let them out of your sight, not even for a minute if they are young and you are supposed to be watching them; if anyone has young children in the house - look around and see what possible dangers there are and immediately take action to remove all dangers.  Unattended buckets with water are death traps for babies and toddlers.
  2. Drivers, please drive carefully. Be on the lookout for young children along the roadside. They have no wisdom when they are tiny and need you to look out for them- they could easily dart out after a ball- slow down! If you have any children in your vehicle please make sure they are buckled up or in a car seat if they’re small.
  3. Please make sure ALL medication is far out of reach and out of sight of young children.  They too want to taste those tablets they see adults taking - we see too many accidental poisonings!