Dr Heloise Buys completed her medical degree at the University of Zimbabwe before spending 6 years training in paediatrics in the UK. She then returned to Africa and joined Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital for the first time.

Dr Buys is currently Head of Ambulatory and Emergency Services at the Hospital and knew that paediatrics was her calling when she worked as a junior doctor in a children’s ward, which was one of her very first positions.

The Emergency Centre sees over 45,000 children a year, with Dr Buys’ unit attending to over 3,000 patients a month.  The three leading life-threatening illnesses her division treats are: acute respiratory infections in tiny babies in which they may stop breathing or have great difficulty breathing normally; convulsions and acute gastroenteritis (diarrhoea) causing severe dehydration and shock; there is always a huge load of bacterial infections, with tuberculosis being just one of these terrible infections.

“What is heart breaking is that many of these conditions can be prevented.”

Acute respiratory illnesses can be made worse if babies and young children are exposed to tobacco smoke, whereas diarrhoea becomes serious when there is poor access to clean water and decent sanitation.  These conditions can be prevented by educating parents and caregivers on what danger signs to look out for when children fall ill at home and at what point they need to bring children to the Hospital.

For example, if a small baby is not drinking and not responding (dehydration); or before a chest infection becomes life-threatening; or taking young children to the clinic for immunisations and even prevention medication if there is someone with tuberculosis in the house so that they don’t develop TB themselves.

Very importantly, is not exposing babies to tobacco, drugs or alcohol while they are still in the womb.

Dr Buys’ mission in life is to serve children, working with other healthcare professionals to maintain the excellent standards of care at the Hospital and to help set up training for paediatric emergency specialists in South Africa which will enable seriously ill and injured children to have access to the best possible healthcare. Good emergency care for all South African children is one of her goals.

The upgrade and the expansion of the Emergency Centre at the Hospital is going to enable Dr Buys and her staff to achieve her mission by helping to save children’s lives, provide excellent emergency care at a time when the relentless demand on the facility continues to increase.

“Many hospital deaths occur in the first 24 hours of admission – good emergency care is vital to reduce this risk”

 Dr Buys is one of seven children and her mother, Dolly, always made sure that she and her siblings completed their homework and did their best at school.  Her message to young women is to work hard at school and to further their education and training so that they have the best possible opportunities in life.

“Do your best in everything you do, support others and continue to move forward. Wishing all women joy on National Women’s Day.”