Completely dedicated to rescuing and helping other people, he “tries to go where others flee” – a one-man band – or maybe a one-man organization ? Rafał Maziejuk – Head of the Polish Red Cross Rescue Group ‘Kielce’ – tells us in an interview about his biggest challenges, like organisation of a collective quarantine place during a coronavirus pandemic, and his work for another human being. Let us add that Rafał is a volunteer in the PCK Rescue Group, a rescuer working in the police and a volunteer firefighter.

Rafał, you are a Chief of “Kielce” Polish Red Cross Rescue Group. Please tell us about your group, how many people it consists of, what do you do on daily basis, what are the sections of your group?

RZ: The Polish Red Cross Rescue Group in Kielce is currently a group of 30 people, including 8 candidates. GR PCK Kielce is a unit cooperating with the PRM system – National Medical Emergency Service. On a daily basis, our rescuers take part in various rescue training courses, as well as conducting training courses in first aid, qualified first aid or broadly understood rescue, while cooperating with other rescue entities. In  our free time, we take part in various events and gatherings as safeguards, as we are all volunteers. There are no special sections listed in the structures of GR PCK Kielce.

You secure many events and gatherings, provide first aid training, and most importantly, you help those in need and support other rescue sections. Which of the interventions has been the most demanding, the most engaging to you, so far?

RZ: The main objective of the Polish Red Cross Rescue Groups in the country is to support professional rescue services in “large” incidents. Fortunately, there are not that many of those. Some of the activities which we remember the most and which required a great deal of commitment are those related to the floods which hit Poland in 2010. Our rescuers, cooperating with GR PCK Sandomierz, Ostrowiec Św. and Przemyśl, provided help to people in the areas flooded by Wisła river between Sandomierz and Tarnobrzeg. Here, with the support of firefighters with boats, we replaced the State Medical Rescue Service in the flooded areas. Our task was to reach the injured person, evacuate from the place of danger and transfer to State Medical Emergency or Hospital Emergency Department.

The second quite difficult event was the participation in rescue operations during the railway crash near Szczekociny on the border of the Świętokrzyskie and Śląskie Provinces. On the spot, we worked together with our colleagues from the Polish Red Cross Rescue Group in Będzin, acting side by side with rescuers from the State Medical Emergency Teams, the State and Volunteer Fire Brigade and Mountain Rescue Service (GOPR). Even though we were only involved about 2 hours after the incident, there was still a lot to do on the ground. The conditions under which we had to work were a heavy physical and mental strain on us. The sight of the crushed wagons, looking for people trapped in the bent metal panels of the wagons for a long time in the hope that they are still alive. Finally, devastating information from a present doctor that the people we fought hard to help are unfortunately dead. That was at times overwhelming. Regrettably, the second day after the incident, it turned out that one of the people who died on the spot, and who we were also extracting from the wreck, was Karolina, a rescuer from our group, who was on her way to Krakow, where she studied.

Abovementioned events, the flood and the train accident, are great challenges but you have recently been working for coronavirus – infected people. You have been on duty for more than two months in a collective quarantine facility set up to assist such people. This was probably also a testing ground for each of you. What did you have to face and what thoughts come to your mind after working on this facility?

RZ: For us, as well as for most people, it was a big challenge, and I think that we have achieved 100% of what was planned. It started with a call to our emergency number from the Świętokrzyskie Voivodship Office asking whether we shall undertake to conduct the quarantine facility “starting yesterday”. No one really knew what all of this was supposed to look like and what we would have to face. However, in spite of this, we have taken up the glove and, with great support from the employees of both the Świętokrzyskie Voivodship Office in Kielce and the Kielce City Hall, we have organised a collective quarantine facility. We had nine double rooms at the MOSiR sports hall in Kielce. Right after we took over the facility, we started our duty by developing procedures for dealing with all future residents. At that time, nobody knew what we were going to be dealing with, what it was all going to look like, and so on. We have also started to ensure that those in quarantine have the best possible conditions in the rooms where they were to spend the next two weeks. Our residents had a full sanitary infrastructure at their disposal, each room was equipped with kettles, water filtering jugs and, where there were none, TV sets. Whereas for our rescuers we have arranged rooms where they could be on duty in comfortable conditions 24 hours a day. It was also a great deal of support that we were provided with two Hammer rugged phones for quarantine purposes. They have served and continue to serve bravely, handling our emergency numbers. The work went smoothly, and the people in quarantine were given appropriate care. Despite a few surprises, our rescuers did well. Today, without hesitation, we would also take up this project.

What qualities should an ideal candidate for a paramedic have in addition to all the courses and qualifications? What kind of personality he/she should have?

RZ: In addition to statutory duties, it should be a person who feels a calling and knows he wants to do it – especially in current situation. The work of a paramedic is no bed of roses. It is a difficult profession, requiring many sacrifices, often underestimated and unfortunately poorly paid. Rescuers working in the civil service often have to work ‘two jobs’ to somehow make ends meet and support families. A paramedic should be tough, stress-resistant. He cannot be an individualist. The job of a paramedic is a continuous teamwork, something that a candidate needs to constantly deal with. He or she must be able to react quickly and act under severe stress.

Is it possible to learn all this?

RZ: It depends on person. A lot of skills can be developed but, above all, you have to want to learn, want to work and act. Consistency and striving for the goal are crucial here.

You are completely dedicated to rescue, you work professionally as a paramedic in police prevention units. You are also a member of the PCK Rescue Group, where you work as a volunteer. What does it look like from your point of view, when you’ve finished your work, you think about rest, you plan an evening and an accident happens? While on duty, are you communicating using a group/application? It is probably difficult to be within reach and by the phone at any time of day or night.

RZ: It all depends on good time management. You can deal with lots of stuff if you really want to. First and foremost, my work – or rather a service – in Police, where I am a paramedic in the Medical Team of the Police Prevention Unit in Kielce. On a daily basis, my teammates and I deal with the medical security of police operations. We also train police officers from the Świętokrzyskie Police garrison in first aid and qualified first aid. The service is demanding, but it also gives a lot of satisfaction. The same is true of the Polish Red Cross in Kielce, although it is voluntary. We have developed our own alarm system – from group information on Messenger and text messages, to phonecalls. When an emergency call happens, several rescuers are always available and they go first. Others, if necessary, arrive at the scene of the incident or in the event of long-term operations, change rescuers working on site.

Your friends have written about you that you are the one who always goes where others run away from. What could they have meant? To paraphrase, When the going gets tough Rafał gets going?

RZ: Haha, yes:) The job of a rescuer is to go where others run away from. In addition to my daily service in the police and my voluntary service in the Polish Red Cross, I am also a volunteer firefighter, and here you can literally quote these words.

In the work of a rescuer, equipment is getting more and more important. In fact, even the best rescuer is said to be unable to make full use of his skills and knowledge without proper equipment and apparatus. What is essential in your work?

RZ: In the work of a rescuer, the most important thing is reliable equipment that will work even in the least expected moment. Despite a good team, without any specialist equipment, we are only able to provide first aid.

I know that you use the HAMMERs at work. What do you appreciate these phones for?

RZ: First and foremost for their resistance. While we work in difficult conditions, we do not have to worry that our phone will get wet or fall from a height and stop working. He also patiently endured mandatory decontamination while working in quarantine.

Finally, tell us what gets you going in your daily life and what you do in your so-called free time?

RZ: What I do is exciting enough. Working in teams with mega-positive people gives me energy for action. In my free time I concentrate on my loved ones.

Do you have any suggestions, advice for HAMMEROMANIAKS for the upcoming autumn-winter period?

RZ: RZ: Hmm, I think the best advice is not to let COVID get them 🙂

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