Willem van Lankvelt

A portrait of STARS Very Important Patient Willem van Lankvelt, photographed in the crew locker room at the Winnipeg MB STARS base.

From paramedic to patient

Being out in nature, on his bike, has always been one of Willem van Lankvelt’s favourite activities. So, when summer arrived, he was excited to get up to his family cabin in a remote area and start pedalling. During what Willem thought was going to be a pleasant afternoon on his bike, his ride took a life-threatening turn when he was struck by a truck.

The impact caused significant head trauma and severe internal bleeding.

Well before his accident, Willem already had a deep appreciation for STARS, having served as a paramedic for more than 16 years. He had seen firsthand the everyday difference STARS makes in the lives of critically ill and injured patients.

He had even worked and socialized with the crew that rescued him. Those factors made it one of the most difficult missions that STARS flight nurse Melvin Yumang has ever been on.

“The extent of his injuries were such that neither myself nor my partner Ray recognized Willem at the time,” said Melvin. “He had sustained such horrific injuries to his head and face.”

Upon STARS’ arrival at the scene, the Air Medical Crew had to work quickly to stabilize Willem.

“He needed an advanced level of resuscitation before we could actually provide any of the interventions such as airway management. He needed blood, which we were able to give him. He needed some interventions done with his chest, so we were able to decompress the flail chest that he had, to allow him to breathe a little bit better,” said Ray Rempel, a STARS paramedic. “And then his jaw was tight, and he needed medications to help loosen that up so that we could safely intubate him and clear his airway in order to help him give him vital oxygen.”

Thanks to the rapid provision of critical care alongside the work of our allies on the ground and at the trauma centre where Willem was taken, he has been able to make a successful recovery.

Willem credits STARS with his survival. Since his recovery he has returned to work as a paramedic. He encourages everyone he meets to support STARS.

“To anybody who has sponsored or supported STARS, I just want to say thank you,” said Willem. “I can’t put into words the impact your support has had on me and my family. Thank you.”

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