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Herstory: What It Means to Save a Life
With 20 years of lifesaving experience under her belt, Lieutenant Noraini Kasbani of the SCDF has nothing but passion for her job.

Herstory is a series that highlights the Home Team’s outstanding female officers and their experiences.

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A seasoned Paramedic professional, LTA Noraini joined the SCDF in 1998. PHOTO: Fatimah Mujibah

Lieutenant (LTA) Noraini Kasbani has dedicated 20 years to saving lives. A Paramedic with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), she tells me that her work not only improved the lives of others during their time of need, it also brought about positive change in her. 

I sat down with LTA Noraini for a chat about her Home Team journey. Her friendly demeanour put me at ease immediately and she responded to my questions with confidence and wit.

What It Takes
I wanted to know what the hardest part about being a Paramedic was, and I half-expected her to share about the losses that she’d witnessed. Instead, she told me otherwise. “I know most people think losing a patient is the hardest thing,” she said solemnly. “But for me, it’s about the ones left behind – the crying child sitting next to a recently deceased parent; the worried wife who hopes her husband’s heart attack won’t make her a widow.”

LTA Noraini’s response shook me. Being a Paramedic is no simple job – it requires clinical skills, yes, but also something that can’t be trained – empathy. “We’re responsible for a person’s life,” she said. 

It’s a huge responsibility, which is why LTA Noraini stressed the importance of continued learning, be it from life or likeminded peers. “We also have to be aware that cases and symptoms sometimes don’t present the way we learnt them,” she said. “Sometimes, we may lose someone despite doing everything we could.”
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LTA Noraini is currently an EMS Team Leader at the 4th SCDF Division. PHOTO: Peggy Tan

LTA Noraini shared a memorable case that occurred during New Year’s Eve in 1999. She was on the night shift when a call came in. Her Paramedic crew immediately rushed down to a housing estate to attend to a man who, “looked flushed, like he’d had too much alcohol.” 

After they brought the man into the ambulance, he started to have a seizure. Checking the man’s pulse, LTA Noraini recognised that he was exhibiting signs of ventricular fibrillation. 

Her team defibrillated the man immediately, as they conveyed him to the nearest hospital. By the time they arrived, the man had regained consciousness and seemed alert. 

LTA Noraini recalled the emergency doctor commending her crew for their swift action, which saved the man’s life. “So I welcomed the year 2000 by bringing a man back to life,” she quipped. 

A Decision that Changed Her Life
I wondered what had spurred LTA Noraini to dedicate her life to being a Paramedic, having joined the SCDF in 1998. She recalled that she had a steady job in the retail trade but came across a recruitment advertisement in the newspaper. 

At that time, a close friend of hers had taken ill and had suffered severe allergic reactions. LTA Noraini had to rush her friend to the hospital on several occasions. “I wished I knew more about medicine, how to deal with emergencies and help someone who was in pain,” she revealed. 

Applying to the SCDF, she joined the Force as a Paramedic trainee in 1998. Fast forward to 2018, and LTA Noraini is an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Team Leader at the 4th SCDF Division, where she’s involved in planning, training and operations. 

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Proud to be part of the Home Team: LTA Noraini (second from left) with her Paramedic crew. PHOTO: Peggy Tan

Not Just a Job 
I grew curious about what has kept LTA Noraini going for 20 years. For her, each day on the job is new and exciting. “I’ve stayed because of the people and the opportunities I’ve had at SCDF,” she said. 

Over the years, LTA Noraini has taken part in post-earthquake humanitarian operations in Indonesia and as well as an EMS attachment with Ambulance Victoria in Australia. She’s represented Singapore with pride too; In September 2018, LTA Noraini was part of an SCDF team that came in tops at the Ferno Australia Paramedic Simulation Challenge, a global competition for lifesavers held in Gold Coast, Australia. To prepare for the Challenge, the team members spent close to 70 hours on off-duty training, practising about 60 different emergency scenarios. 

“One of the reasons why I love my job is that I don’t have a typical day at work,” said LTA Noraini. “When you sign up with SCDF, you’re not just doing a job. You’re joining the Life-saving Force.”

Want to learn more about the inspiring women officers in the Home Team? Check out:
Herstory: Policing Our Coasts with Pride
- Herstory: Finding the Missing Piece of the Puzzle
Herstory: Helping Inmates Navigate Through Difficult Challenges
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Peggy Tan
  2. 20 December 2018
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