New Plymouth is a world away from Liberia, Nepal, and the United Arab Emirates but the mission is still the same for Dewet Pienaar the newest Intensive Care Paramedic on the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.
“That idea of helping someone is what drives me. Not just in the cliché way, but as an emergency paramedic you’re genuinely able to make an impact,” says Pienaar.
An experienced critical care paramedic with a history of working in low resource settings overseas, Dewet has made the trip North from Palmerston North to New Plymouth to take up a role with the Rescue Helicopter.
“The region is obviously very differently geographically to Manawatu, and there’s a different vibe here,” says Dewet who together with his wife Teresa has taken to enjoying the Taranaki café culture and coastal living, in particular long beach walks.
Pukekura Park is high on the ‘to-do’ list with his colleagues quick to offer suggestions of places to visit and activities. “I hadn’t been to Taranaki all the much before, only visiting a few times, but everyone has been so welcoming and we’re learning more every day that we’re here.”
Dewet had previously worked with crewman Luke Miller and pilot Mike Parker as well as volunteer Phil.
“It’s an awesome team, a great hangar base with really cool atmosphere, the crew families are able to come and go, which helps that team culture.”
Emergency medical care wasn’t Dewet’s initial calling, he was on the path to becoming an engineer in his hometown, Johannesburg, South Africa when a chance opportunity saw him take a basic EMT course which then led to a formal education with a four-year bachelor’s degree in Emergency Medical Care.
“I realised the outside world was a lot more challenging and cooler, I applied for the course at university and then my career just snuck up on me.”
That career has seen him travel the world and “broaden his horizons”. Stints in emergency care in South Africa were interspersed with a period as part of a fixed wing aircraft crew in Liberia just after the Ebola epidemic in 2015 and a period spent in Nepal in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes as part of an Urban Search and Rescue team.
He spent two years in Abu Dhabi, before a short return to West Africa for a clinic based role, before New Zealand came calling and he travelled from South Africa with Teresa and their two dogs – Lily and Merlot – to settle in Palmerston North in October 2019.
Away from the helicopter Dewet describes himself as a ‘tech guy’ who loves his drone and has a flight simulator set up in his home. He is also keen diver – both personally and professionally – with the Maldives high on his list of places he has dived, but as yet not tried the West Coast waters of Taranaki.