Four urological surgeons were awarded the inaugural Christchurch Medal, in recognition of their bravery and self-sacrifice during rescue operations in the wake of last year’s Christchurch earthquake. They received the Medal during the Gala Dinner of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Darwin on Tuesday night.
Almost 600 urological surgeons and nurses, including EAU Secretary General Per-Anders Abrahamsson, were attending the same meeting in the Christchurch city centre when the earthquake struck in February last year, claiming 185 lives. Many of those attending the medical conference risked their own lives to help rescue people trapped in shattered buildings.
“The Urological Society’s Board of Directors has decided to acknowledge the exceptionally selfless feats of four individuals by introducing the Christchurch Medal, awarded for acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances,” says Society President Dr Stephen Ruthven.
The Medal has been struck from metal recovered from the Crown Plaza Hotel, which was the meeting’s official hotel and has since been destroyed as a consequence of the earthquake.
The four medal recipients are Lydia Johns Putra from Ballarat, Stuart Phillip from Brisbane, Stephen Mark from Christchurch and Julian Shah from England.
Lydia Johns Putra was part of a team who performed bilateral above the knee amputation to free a man trapped under concrete in a collapsed building in central Christchurch, shortly after the earthquake struck. Her only instrument was a pocket knife with a saw to perform the surgery. At considerable personal risk, Lydia crawled beneath tonnes of crumbling concrete to perform the life saving surgery in an unstable building that continued to be rocked by large aftershocks.
Stephen Mark provided medical assistance to the injured in the Arts Centre, before searching for survivors in the collapsed Cathedral. He then went on to aid three people trapped on the top floor of The Press Building. After accessing the roof via a cage suspended from a crane, Stephen entered the partially collapsed structure through a hole cut by the rescue team and despite regular aftershocks, provided pain relief and support to two women trapped under debris for several hours until they could be rescued.
Stuart Phillip from Brisbane demonstrated leadership, skill and bravery along with Lydia Johns Putra in a precarious situation atop a destroyed building resuscitating, operating on and attempting to retrieve injured people.
Stuart’s communication skills and lateral thinking in co-ordinating, along with Lydia, setting up an emergency resuscitation and triage service made him invaluable to the operation.
Julian Shah assisted in the rescue of a woman trapped on the top floor of the severely damaged Christchurch Press Building. After negotiating the last two flights of stairs, which had been reduced to rubble, on his hands and knees he assisted the trapped and severely injured victim until she was freed from under a beam and transferred to a crane rescue bucket. At that moment a severe aftershock further damaged the stairs and upper floors leaving Julian and his fellow rescuers no choice but to jump across a 1.5 metre chasm 5 stories deep onto the roof of an adjoining building.