By: Josia Shigwedha
This story is about an unsung Namibian hero.
We are talking about an independent diver, who willingly in some instances dives into septic and filthy water to recover drowning victims.
His name is Percy Openshaw, and he has retrieved hundreds of bodies since he started diving 35 years ago.
Openshaw perfected his passion for diving and helping people by attending an advanced medical rescue and intermediate life support course.
About a week ago, 51-year-old Openshaw retrieved the body of a six-year-old boy who had drowned in Grysblock on a Sunday afternoon. Openshaw said 90 percent of calls he responds to are people without medical aid and volunteers his services.
It was after losing his son to an accidental shooting about two decades ago, and couldn’t cough up N$18 000 for a private emergency ambulance to transport his son from a farm to Windhoek for medical treatment that changed his life. Openshaw decided he will not refuse people help in exchange for money.
The former police officer, born in Oshakati now owns a crisis emergency service.
“ I don’t get paid for that (diving). We are doing that to help the community. There is no one else willing to do it. Previously, the bodies were left in the water until they started floating, that may take three , four, five days," said Openshaw, adding that by retrieving bodies he was giving family members closure.
Diving is a risky exercise if the water is septic or filthy. The diver stands a chance of contracting Hepatitis , bacterial and viral infections- for Openshaw, he spent a total N$ 3000 on antibiotics.
"As soon as I get out of the water, I try to wash off with clear water. I get to the Fire brigade so that they spray me with clean water immediately. Then when I get back to the office, I bath with chlorine, then I start antibiotics treatment for seven days. That normally stops big infections but the eyes and ear infections occur but that is not life threatening."
Openshaw, who is near retirement, urged the youth to pursue careers that will benefit the community.