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Up and close with Namibia’s cardiovascular perfusionist

2020-07-20  Aletta Shikololo

Up and close with Namibia’s cardiovascular perfusionist
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Aletta Shikololo

After years of having sleepless nights, sweat and tears, Nelago Embula recently landed the biggest first-place finish of her life by becoming the first Namibian-born clinical technologist, specialising in cardiovascular perfusion.
A clinical cardiovascular perfusionist, also known as a cardiac perfusionist, is primarily responsible for supporting the normal functions of the heart, kidneys and brain by maintaining adequate perfusion and regulating the metabolism of a patient throughout an open-heart surgery. 
This is achieved by operating extracorporeal circulation equipment, the cardiopulmonary bypass machine, also known as the heart-lung machine. 
Cardiovascular perfusionists are also experts in other life support equipment, such as ventricular assist devices, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and intra-aortic balloon pump.
“My career is extremely demanding, yet so fulfilling,” expressed the 24-year-old Tshwane University of Technology graduate. 
The Swakopmund-born said even though she has been passionate about helping people and saving lives, her urge to pursue her career emerged after the death of her parents, who perished in a car accident.
She described her journey as a perfusionist trainee a roller coaster, saying she was trained under strict conditions and her early experiences were traumatic and overwhelming.
“The journey was not easy at all but I am grateful I finished what I started. I can now proudly serve the Namibian people,” explained Embula.
Despite challenges the young lady endured during her training at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic hospital, her braveness and courage encouraged her to complete her mission – unlike her peers, who could not take the heat anymore and rather decided to quit.  
“I believe in finishing every race I start,” she acclaimed. 
Embula is a class of 2014 matriculate of Westside High School and a 2020 cum laude graduate of the Tshwane University of Technology. She has currently registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of Namibia. Clinical perfusionists play a crucial role in cardiovascular surgery. During a process called a cardiopulmonary bypass, they monitor complex life support machines that serve as the patients’ heart and lungs. This is done during intensive procedures such as open-heart surgery and aid with cell saving in emergency C-sections and liver transplants. 
Embula is one of the three perfusionists in the country. The other two are South African nationals.

2020-07-20  Aletta Shikololo

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