One Life At A Time
The dispatch tone wails to life in the middle of the night. Along with the other EMTs and firefighters, I roll out of bed and groggily throw on my turnouts, then take my seat in the ambulance. My coworker revs the engine to life, and we peel out of the fire hall, lights and sirens going full blast. When we arrive at the address, we confirm that it is an emergency. In no time, we load the patient onto the gurney and head for the nearest hospital. We arrive in a few minutes and give the nurses a report of the patient’s condition. They assume full responsibility, and our whole interaction is charted and complete less than an hour after the tone first sounded, allowing us to return to our comfy beds. At least, that’s the usual drill for most EMS calls in the United States. But that’s not at all how my experience has been here in Kemantian. Things are very different in the jungle.
One night, a messenger arrived on foot at the Georges’ house, and the Georges radioed the clinic, alerting us to the emergency. We quickly changed out of our pajamas into our skirts (forget tactical), laced up our mud cleats, and began the steep hike to Mislinda’s house. The only siren we had to announce our presence was our loud panting as we climbed; the only lights our headlamps. The mountain always seems taller when you’re in a hurry and can’t take breaks, but we finally made it over the ridge and down to the house in the valley on the other side.
When we arrived, we found Mislinda’s mother-in-law unconscious. We did an assessment and tried to wake her up, but we were unsuccessful. So, we called our “ambulance,” Mislinda’s husband Bubin. He brought out a large basket, and we strapped our patient in and then we set out for the clinic. Bubin hiked fast, seeming unaware of the weight of his mother on his back. When we got closer to the clinic, Carrie and I ran ahead to prepare things. There would be no transfer of care tonight. It’s illegal to fly the helicopter in the dark, and it was almost 9 o’clock by the time we had returned to the clinic. There was no chance tonight to send this patient to the lowlands for further care if necessary. We were responsible for her.
We were finally able to wake her up, and her vital signs stabilized shortly afterwards. After starting an IV, we talked to the family members staying with her, telling them to come and wake us up if anything else happened. The whole ordeal took about two hours, where in the States it might have taken as little as 15 minutes. However, the patient was safe, and even though we would be tired in the morning, God had blessed us with the ability to make a difference in one life.