Eltham referee Munashe Chitima – lifesaver

MUNASHE Chitima had just returned to refereeing on Monday last week.

Heading to Eltham High School for his A Grade evaluation, after a four-month break from the stripes, the 19-year-old referee was preparing for a standard weeknight match as he watched a mate’s game.

It ramped up from an everyday night on court very quickly though when an Over-30s player Peter Mingon collapsed on court and stopped breathing soon after.

Whether it was good fortune or sheer coincidence, Chitima and two ER nurses were at the courts and ready to assist Mingon and administer life-saving first aid.

Chitima had some experience on his side – with years spent in surf lifesaving and as a lifeguard at the local YMCA – and was willing and ready to assist the nurses with anything they needed as the three people went to work saving the man’s life.

They administered CPR, organised the use of the defibrillator and kept performing CPR until the first ambulance arrived. Their combined efforts helped the man start breathing again and allowed for the best possible outcome as Peter is now recovering in hospital.

Without their assistance… Mingon probably would not have survived.

“I was actually coming in for my A Grade course, getting that validated for my A Grade and as I came in I saw this guy collapse and everyone was looking around,” Chitima said.

“I was just watching getting ready for my pre-game and just jumped in I guess – I didn’t even think, you just look at a situation and start looking at what’s going on around you and there were two ways this could go and I would rather increase the chances of this ending in the better way.

“I’ve had my lifeguard and surf-lifesaving skills as a surf-lifesaver and luckily we also had two ER nurses there too so while we were doing our assessment and while 000 was on the phone, he stopped breathing and we started doing compressions and got the de-fib and delivering shocks.

“By the time we were preparing for the third shock the paramedics were there.”

It was a cool, calm response to a traumatic situation and one that Chitima admired as he worked alongside assisting the professionals who also sprung into immediate action.

“The two nurses – the way they composed themselves – it’s one thing to see it at work but to be able to do it outside your comfort zone… they just held it together and I think that helped everyone else around the situation,” Chitima said. “It brought back the importance of everyone knowing First Aid – it’s one thing to do a course but it’s another to be able to deal with certain situations.”

He’s usually one of the first to put his hand up and help out the community – as a VBRA Eltham branch general committee member – and Chitima wants to pursue his passion as a ref-coach to give back even more to the basketball community.

“It allows me to define who I am – it either makes you or breaks you and it has one of those life skills where if you can survive a game, you can definitely survive a whole lot of things,” Chitima said. “I want to get into ref coaching and eventually be a ref coach for Big V and WNBL – I would definitely love to get onto panel and do some nationals as well, but I’ve definitely found that being able to do it is good, but being able to help people become who they want to be is the best way to do it.

“I just love being able to give back to the ref community and that’s why I’m glad that I’ve been able to give back to the basketball community – we saw it on Monday, it’s massive and we just didn’t even know what to do but we were able to do something.”

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