Soccer team in a huddle

Fighting to Save a Life is Teamwork

Feature Article | April 20, 2017 by Chiara Nicholl

Daniel Gerdes spends weekdays on the road supporting SAP customers, but in his free time he responds to emergencies of a very different nature.

It’s 8:00 p.m. on a Friday night. Daniel is relaxing on his sofa with a pizza baking in the oven. He has just returned home after a long week spent travelling to customers for his business consultancy job at SAP. As the wail of an alarm suddenly cuts through the air, he instinctively jumps to his feet.

No, it’s not the oven timer going off but the small beeper he carries on him at all times when he is on call. He scans the screen of the small device, and speeds to the emergency car parked outside his house. After a quick change into his uniform he drives off, leaving sofa and dinner behind.

As a volunteer first responder for the German Red Cross county chapter Karlsruhe, south of SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Daniel is used to dropping everything at a moment’s notice to respond to medical emergencies in his area.

“There is no situation in which you don’t get a call, but usually it’s in the most inconvenient ones,” he explains with a smile.

However, after four years of experience and around 100 emergencies responded to per year, the 24-year-old is well trained in his role and considers it “a fun thing to do, even though it is very difficult to talk about fun in these kind of situations.”

 A Race Against Time

The emergencies Daniel voluntary responds to on weekends and in his free time range from minor respiratory problems to highway car crashes, reanimations and suicides. With a Red Cross emergency car full of medical equipment parked outside his house, Daniel can arrive on scene about three to five minutes after the emergency call was first placed.

“Sometimes I arrive at the door and the caller of the emergency has not even hung up the phone yet,” he says. Though always followed by an ambulance and emergency medics, time is still of the essence.

“You Never Know What Is Behind The Door”

Already in high school Daniel’s love for medicine saw him participate in the “School Ambulance,” an extracurricular program where students with first aid training treated minor injuries. Later he would opt into several months of emergency training, becoming a certified paramedic by age 20, which then allowed him to become a first responder.

It’s being able to help people in an immediate and direct way, as well as the fast pace which attracts Daniel to his voluntary work. Though routine becomes a part of the job like in any other field, there is always an element of the unknown that keeps you on your toes: “You never know what is behind the door. No matter how many emergencies you have responded to, you never know what awaits you.”

Fighting to Save a Life is Teamwork

It’s emergencies involving children and infants that stick with Daniel the most. “I did CPR on a baby once”, he recalls, “that was really tough.” While coming to terms with death is a necessary part of the job, Daniel finds it hard when it comes to young patients as “children still have their whole life ahead of them”. Faced with the struggle of dealing with certain situations they witnessed, first responders also have help hotlines available to them. But it’s mostly the mutual support amongst his first responder colleagues which Daniel relies on. When fighting to save a life relies on solid teamwork, close relationships are formed. “How do we deal with it? A lot of talking with each other” he says. The first responders in his area also meet twice a month to train for emergencies, they strengthen their support network at the same time as “sometimes it’s enough to just not be alone”.

When Daniel started working full time at SAP as an analytics consultant for SAP HANA and SAP Predictive Analytics in 2015, Daniel thought he wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. But by reducing his call schedule and finding a colleague to replace him when he is unavailable, Daniel continues to successfully combine first responding with his busy work schedule. But why seek out even more obligations?

Two Worlds Collide

While in his job he enjoys spending lots of time on the customer side and in meeting rooms discussing complex issues, in his voluntary work he has to work under constantly changing conditions that require more of a physical input and offers “something that is exciting and different from my everyday life at SAP.”

Working as a first responder he also deals with people from all walks of life: “I have responded to emergencies from very rich people on their yacht to the poorest people on the streets,” he says. This has led to Daniel treating and viewing everyone with equal respect, because you can never know what someone is going through in life.

Seeing The Person Behind

One big lesson Daniel has taken away from his two roles is to always assume responsibility for the duty you are on. They have also taught him the need to “have a lot of empathy – for everybody.”

This means acknowledging a patient’s family members at an emergency scene, reassuring or calming them, rather than sending people out the door and out of your way. Likewise when working with a customer, he always integrates all parties into the process, even if he could get the job done quicker working alone.

And so Daniel concludes: “While getting the job done is important, you should always work as a team and never forget to see the person behind.”

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