Little Luke lucky to be home for Christmas

Fast mobile ICU ambulance team’s response for baby born with pneumonia

Wednesday, December 15 2021

New parents Samantha and Johann Pieterse are thanking their lucky stars and the emergency medical services team who revived their baby son Luke after he was born at home, fighting for every breath in his first few minutes of life.

“We had planned for a home birth with our midwife, and all was going well when I went into labour late on the night of Monday, 29 November,” says first-time mother Samantha, a professional nurse who works at a government clinic. 


“The following morning, our beautiful son Luke was born. We had no reason to suspect that he would need special care, but when he came into the world, he was really struggling to breathe. He had been born with congenital pneumonia.

“It was very distressing. His breathing was so laboured that we could hear his gasps and the midwife said we needed to call for urgent medical assistance. It was such a shock to me that I collapsed, and they had to call Netcare 911 to send assistance for both of us,” she says.

Baby Luke was experiencing respiratory distress syndrome, and his lips and fingers were turning blue from lack of oxygen, a condition known as peripheral cyanosis.

“When the caller described the new born baby’s symptoms and laboured breathing, the manager at Netcare 911’s emergency operations centre (EOC) recognised that the situation was extremely serious and a Netcare 911 intensive care ambulance as well as one of our regular ambulances and crews set off within less than a minute,” says David Stanton, head of clinical and education at Netcare 911. 

The Netcare 911 national EOC, which can be reached at 082 911, has trained emergency medical services personnel on duty 24 hours a day to dispatch ambulances and more specialised resources if needed. The operations centre also provides remote assistance to the callers over the phone, or via video call, until help arrives on the scene.


“Within a very short time of receiving the call the teams arrived at the Pieterses’ home in Rooihuiskraal to find the baby boy wrapped in a blanket. The paramedics noticed that he wasn’t crying, which is unusual in a newborn and can often be a sign that they are not breathing well on their own,” Stanton adds.

Fortunately, the ICU equipped ambulance enabled paramedics to place Luke on advanced neonatal ventilation and stabilise him almost immediately. These ambulances have highly specialised life support equipment and crews, who can provide an intensive care environment for patients at the scene of an incident or accident and during transport to hospital.

In those first tense moments, father Johann held his son while advanced life support paramedic Richard van der Merwe fitted a special neonatal attachment to the bag mask ventilator, then later a continuous positive airway pressure [CPAP] device was used to gently inflate Luke’s little lungs and ensure he was getting enough oxygen.

Within minutes of arrival, the ambulance was rushing the ventilated baby to hospital, accompanied by his father. The team monitored Luke’s blood oxygen levels and heart rate among other vital checks en route and, by the time they arrived, Luke’s breathing and colour had improved and he was stable. Meanwhile, Samantha was transported to hospital in the other ambulance and within a few days in hospital both mother and her baby son were well enough to be discharged home. 

“Luke’s stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after his birth was without doubt shorter than it would otherwise have been, thanks to the EOC’s sound clinical decision making and the rapid access to advanced life support that Netcare 911 provided,” Stanton says. 

“As a family we would like to say a huge thank you to the amazing Netcare 911 team who came out so quickly to take care of us, and everyone who had a role in getting Luke safely back home to us,” Samantha adds. 

“We are overjoyed that little Luke and his parents are all safe and well back at home, and ready to spend their first Christmas together as a family. We commend the Netcare 911 crews and team members who work together seamlessly each day as probably the only EMS system in the country that can get this level of care to a patient in such a short timeframe,” Stanton concludes.

To find out more about the services offered through Netcare hospitals and other of the Group’s facilities, please contact Netcare’s customer service centre either by email at [email protected] or phone 0860 NETCARE (0860 638 2273). Note that the centre operates Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:00. 

Looking for a medical appointment? Netcare appointmed™ will make appointments with specialists practising at Netcare hospitals, GPs and dentists at Medicross medical and dental centres, and specialists at Akeso mental health facilities for YOU. Simply phone Netcare appointmed™ on 0860 555 565, Mondays to Fridays between 08:00 and 17:00, or go online at to request an appointment.

For more information on this media release, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

Issued by:            MNA on behalf of Netcare 911
Contact:     Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville, Estene Lotriet-Vorster or Clementine Forsthofer
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:    [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]