On Monday he was discharged from Medi-Clinic Nelspruit after he was shot four times with a high calibre assault rifle in an anti-rhino poaching operation in May.
Although he still has a long road to full recovery ahead, he and his physicians hope he will be able to return to duty in the bush.
It is suspected that he was accidentally shot by a SA National Defence Force soldier that day. He was reluctant to talk about exactly what happened as the investigation is still ongoing. Instead he talked about events from the moment he realised he was wounded.
“It was full moon and already dark. I was shot four times,” he said.
He immediately realised he was in serious trouble and radioed for help. An air-force helicopter was not available to take him to hospital but a SANParks pilot set off to fetch him in the official helicopter. Desmet is allergic to bees and carries adrenalin shots with him. He injected himself three times and managed to stay awake for the 90 minutes it took for the helicopter to arrive.
He did think he might not survive. “I was so worried about my family,” he says.
He was taken to Medi-Clinic and spent five weeks in ICU. Three of his ribs were shattered and had to be removed; his diaphragm was ripped off on one side and one lung had collapsed. One of the bullets had shattered his hip which has to be rebuilt. “Because of rhino poaching you work long hours … It’s not our job, it’s our passion. We take this ongoing war very personally,” he said.