Matthew Campbell: supporting emergency response operations

Matt Campbell

Matt studied MSc Surgical Care Practice at ARU. He works as a search and rescue medic, and helped in the relief efforts following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria in 2023.

A paramedic by background, Matt joined Search and Rescue Assistance in Disasters (SARAID) in 2021 as an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Medic. SARAID members are all volunteers, and specialise in disaster response and humanitarian assistance, supporting both domestic and international communities in times of need. 

On 6 February 2023, a 7.8Mw earthquake struck parts of Turkey and Syria.

The day had started with Matt's final 1:1 portfolio assessment with Frances Page, Senior Lecturer Practitioner for Surgical Care Practice at ARU. Later that same day, he was packing his bags, checking his kit and commencing pre-deployment medicals.

Initially, Matt was the only medic present, solely responsible for the health and wellbeing of his team of 17. On the first night in Turkey, SARAID was called to assist a German team with the rescue of casualties in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras.

The casualties were trapped at the base of a collapsed seven-storey apartment complex. Excavation of the external terrain allowed a tunnel to be dug through to the basement, where a core hole was drilled through the wall, and a camera inserted to confirm visual contact. Matt, along with a Turkish translator, then completed a verbal assessment of a mother and her son, along with sending water, and thermal blankets for hydration and warmth.

The breech was widened, and Matt crawled several metres through the tunnel before making visual contact with the patient’s hand, but access was completely obstructed by debris. An aftershock struck not long after and the stability of the scene was compromised. There was also growing unrest at the surface owing to the duration of the rescue.

Matt made the decision to re-enter the tunnel, through the breech, and using his torso as a bridge over the void below, dug the two casualties out by hand before extricating them from the building 68 hours after the earthquake. 
Following this rescue, and the arrival of an additional nine SARAID members, Matt’s focus shifted to maintaining the health and wellbeing of the volunteer team, who had now been exposed to incredibly traumatic scenes and experiences, along with tough environmental conditions including -6 to -10 degrees overnight.

Matt and the SARAID team returned home to the UK six days later. No team member was injured, and three casualties had been rescued.

Following his return, Matt has continued to share the inspirational work achieved by SARAID. He's given numerous presentations throughout his hospital including the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetists with over 300 members, contributing to the ongoing SARAID fundraising efforts following the deployment to Turkey totalling over £70,000.

At our 2024 Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Alumni Awards, Matthew was highly commended in our Alumni Voluntary Service Award for his efforts.