MU Connect issue 7 (page 12 to 13)

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Dedicated volunteer trains more volunteers

Alumnus Brian Wong Kit
Among the first batch of full-time nursing graduates

Brian Wong has devoted almost half of his life to volunteer work since joining the Cadet Corps of the Civil Aid Service (CAS) during his secondary school years. Today, as a father of two children, he continues to train volunteer workers with passion, immersing himself fully in humanitarian relief work.

Volunteering since childhood

Brian joined the CAS in 1998 and has served the organisation for more than two decades. One particularly memorable experience for him was the swine flu outbreak at a hotel in Wan Chai in 2009. “It was my first time participating in a large-scale quarantine operation,” he says. “I was studying nursing at university at that time, so I was gratified to be able to apply what I was learning.”

During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, he worked day and night to assist with the operations of quarantine centres. “I remember when the outbreak first occurred in 2020, the CAS helped the Government manage some of the quarantine centres. We had meetings with the related departments for days to discuss operational procedures, protective measures and equipment usage,” he recalls. In addition to the technical aspects, they also had to find ways to alleviate members' concerns about getting infected and eliminate negative emotions within the organisation. “What we are most proud of was that throughout the entire operation, not a single member was infected while carrying out their duties.”

Humanitarian relief work in Bangladesh

After graduation, Brian worked as an operating theatre nurse in a hospital. In 2017 and 2018, he had the chance to travel with the Hong Kong Red Cross to Cox's Baza, Bangladesh bordering Myanmar's Rakhine State. There, he volunteered as an operating theatre nurse in Red Cross field hospital, serving numerous displaced civilians. “But resources were scarce. One time, the last chest drain device inexplicably failed, resulting in the death of a small child,” he laments. When sorrow passed, he suddenly recalled his internship at a long-established hospital during his university days, where a water-sealed bottle design made from three old glass bottles was displayed. “I immediately went online to search for relevant techniques, replicated the design with plastic bottles, and successfully assembled a makeshift device for emergency use, which eventually saved the lives of five or six children.”

Though helplessness pervaded the field hospital, Brian had to calmly handle each case as he shouldered the role of coordinating the operating theatre. “I remember a girl of about ten years old who was accidentally run over by a mango truck, leading to a fractured skull and severe internal bleeding.” While doctors and nurses from different countries were expeditiously discussing life-saving options, Brian raised two questions: In the advanced countries they lived in, what would the girl's survival rate be in such a severe situation? And if all the blood packs in the operating theatre were used up for the operation, how would they be able to save subsequent injured patients? “In the end, we decided to let the girl spend her final moments with her family and then leave the world with dignity.”

Engaged in local emergency services

Brian has left frontline nursing work and is currently with the Hong Kong Red Cross as Acting Senior Manager (Local Emergency Services), International and Relief Service, providing relief materials and services to those affected by disasters or emergencies in Hong Kong. To illustrate the nature of his work, he quotes the example of the explosion at a Chai Wan electrical substation earlier this year. “Although no residents were injured, the building's water and electricity supply was suspended overnight. We immediately provided hot water, hot meals and emergency charging services. Medical consultations and emotional support were offered to the elderly and those with chronic diseases, while medication was supplied to residents who were unable to return home due to lift shutdown. Of course, our first aid response unit was also on standby at the scene.” Brian also recounts the incessant operations that he, his colleagues and the volunteer team conducted during the “once-in-500-years” rainstorm that struck Hong Kong last September, leaving him with an indelible and unforgettable experience.

New experiences bring fresh insights

In 2021, Brian decided to leave the CAS in order to prioritise his family. “I was assigned to the Tactical Force Training Office before my departure, where my responsibility involved training members in emergency rescue operations,” he explicates. “This encompassed providing training on handling situations such as building collapses, which included operating heavy machinery, utilising explosive tools, and conducting search and rescue amidst debris.” He stresses the importance of effective training as a critical element in maintaining the organisation's operational readiness and achieving optimal performance.

Reflecting on his extensive volunteer journey, Brian realises that each stage has offered him unique experiences. “During my younger years, I underwent training in physical fitness, first aid, wildfire suppression and mountain rescue. As time went by, I steadily advanced to becoming an officer who was actively involved in planning and leading operations,” he explains. This transition in role has reinforced his understanding of the importance of meticulous attention to detail in every operation, with careful planning, coordination and communication being paramount.

Over the course of his two-decade volunteer service, Brian pursued full-time nursing study at the then OUHK and subsequently became a full-time nurse. He expresses gratitude for how his nursing education has expanded his perspective, allowing him to offer valuable insights during operations. He particularly highlights the profound influence of former School Dean Prof. Joseph Lee Kok-long. “His concurrent role as a Legislative Council member helped me realise that as long as we are willing to go the extra mile, we can contribute to enhancing the entire system beyond our professional responsibilities.”

Training more volunteers

While pursuing his Master's Degree, Brian volunteered with the St. John Ambulance Brigade (St. John) alongside his classmates, serving as an instructor for the Youth Command. Over the years, besides serving as a volunteer himself, he has also trained countless volunteers to serve the community both in the CAS and St. John. Today, Brian continues in his role as a coach, training volunteers for the Hong Kong Red Cross and ensuring that the spirit of volunteer service continues to be passed on and promoted.