Capetonian surgeon uses pocket knife to save injured biker while on holiday

A Cape Town doctor was on holiday with his wife and sister-in-law when they came across an accident… and landed up saving a life using a pocket knife!


Port Elizabeth, South Africa – Doctor Wimpie Odendaal was on holiday in PE when he saved a life using his pocket knife. The doctor, who comes from Cape Town was driving down a quiet road with his wife and sister-in-law when they came across the scene of an accident.

According to Doctor Odendaal, the accident must have happened seconds before they drove by. They immediately stopped to assess the situation and called for emergency services.

Doctor Odendaal’s wife and sister-in-law are both also medical professionals so they were able to assist the victims while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

“My wife, general practitioner Dr Christa de Wit, and I were on holiday in Port Elizabeth and were driving with my sister-in-law Louise, who is a nursing sister, on a quiet, leafy back road when we happened upon the scene of a road accident,” 

“Clearly, the accident had happened just seconds before we arrived. My wife immediately asked Louise to call emergency medical services. 

“An injured man was sitting upright in the middle of the road, and a woman, clearly very distressed, was standing next to her damaged car. While he was visibly in pain, it was not initially obvious that he had sustained severe injuries.”

The motorcyclist that was injured had seemed fine at first but as the minutes went by, Doctor Odendaal noticed a decline in his visible vitals.

“Within seconds, however, the man’s condition deteriorated. He became very short of breath, lost consciousness and no pulse could be discerned.”

The doctor and his wife immediately started CPR to save the man’s life. They were able to diagnose the most immediate and life-threatening problem.

“The veins in the patient’s neck were distended and his trachea had shifted. It became evident that he had developed a tension pneumothorax, which is a life-threatening condition where air becomes trapped between the membranes surrounding the lungs. 

“Not only does tension pneumothorax compress the lung, making breathing difficult, if not impossible, it also decreases the flow of blood to the heart and can very quickly lead to cardiopulmonary arrest. I knew that something would need to be done immediately to relieve the tension pneumothorax, or the man would have little chance of survival.”

“By this time, a few bystanders had gathered at the scene and, as I had no medical equipment in my car save for a plastic mouthpiece for mouth to mouth resuscitation, I shouted to ask if anybody had a sharp object I could use.

Having very little time left, Dr Odendaal was handed a pocket knife and quickly worked to relieve the pressure in his chest. He slipped the knife between the man’s ribs and it worked, he started to stabilise.

“I was offered a pocket knife, and had no other choice than to use this to open the fifth intercostal space anterior to the midaxillary line, which is a specific area between the ribs on the side, to relieve the pressure. If it weren’t for this emergency intervention, the man would most likely have died within minutes.”

Once he was taken to a nearby hospital, it was confirmed that he had 14 rib fractures, cardiac and pulmonary contusions, a broken pelvis and a broken foot. He spent a few weeks in the hospital and has since been discharged to recover at home.

Without the fast action from Dr Odendaal and his wife, the story may have had a very different ending.

Dr Wimpie Odendaal at his practice in Cape Town

Sources: Health24
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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