Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground

In my continuing effort to understand South Africa, I wanted to explore the world of the emergency services. To spend time with them, understanding the trauma that they are faced with on a daily basis. Trauma as an illustration of some of the embedded ills of this society.

Trauma, however, is only part of a bigger picture. I was there to see people, the empty streets, the night walker, the lonely sand dune, the stumbling drunk, the concerned mother.

And I did.
At nine, I saw a girl of 19 almost die from TB because she had waited too long before coming to the clinic,
At ten, I spoke to the husband of his recently deceased wife. “She was making supper, felt hot, couldn’t breathe and collapsed on the floor.” She died before the ambulance could arrive.
I saw a security guard beaten by his boss because he was drunk at work.
I saw a man stabbed because he would not share his bottle of beer.
I accompanied a lady needing transport to the maternity clinic and an hour later, I saw her baby.
I saw a man who had died in the back of a police van of unknown causes.
I saw a lady struggling to breathe from a life of heavy smoking.
At four, I saw a man declared dead while his neighbours carried on with their party...
And all the while spaces lit up by the street lights. Unremarkable places during the day, transformed by the night.

This is the result of my time spent with the Emergency Medical Services in the Northern Districts of the Western Cape: Bellville, Kuilsriver, Delft, Elsies River, ...


May 2011