India Interior

The saviours on two-wheelers

Sarita Brara | Updated on July 12, 2019 Published on July 12, 2019

Bike ambulances bring timely first-aid services to people in remote areas around Shimla

He does not remember the exact day, but it was during the rainy season last year that 108 received an emergency call, recalls Dharam Prakash, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) under the First Responder Bike (FRB) ambulance service. An elderly woman had fainted in the Lower Khalini area down the hill in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.

Prakash lost no time and rushed to the address given by the caller. A 75-year old woman lay unconscious. He found her glucose level had gone down. He immediately called the Emergency Response Centre Physician (ERCP) and on his instruction gave her the treatment required in such a situation. In a few minutes the woman regained consciousness.

An emergency calls for an immediate response. A middle-aged man was put on a drip outdoors — right on the road! This became necessary since he was on the verge of losing consciousness, aftervomiting several times, and with his blood pressure dropping. Someone had made a call to 108. Prakash, who arrived at the scene immediately, gave an anti-vomiting injection and then put the patient on drip as instructed by the ERCP. The timely medical attention saved the life of this 42-year-old man. He was later taken to the hospital in a four-wheeled ambulance. By then he had stabilised.

Surender Kumar, another EMT, had to face a tough challenge earlier this year. On March 16, at around 10.45 am, an emergency call was received. Reaching the scene, Kumar found that the patient, a 30-year-old pregnant woman, was in labour pain for the last half an hour. After observing the patient, he found that she was at crowning stage and the delivery had to be conducted on the spot without wasting a minute. He was able to do so successfully and thus saved the life of the mother and the infant. Later, the patient and her newborn were safely shifted to the hospital.

Thanks to the ‘first response’ to medical emergencies under the Bike Ambulance Service, many a life has been saved. The 108 service was launched in Shimla in April last year with the aim of reaching first aid required under any medical emergency at the earliest.

The Bike Ambulances can access areas inaccessible to four-wheelers. In hilly terrain like Shimla’s, it sometimes becomes difficult for traditional four-wheeled ambulances to reach a patient due to traffic snarls on roads that are narrow and winding. Here, bikes can manoeuvre much faster and thus reach the spot of an emergency in good time.

Prakash recalls a number of incidents, especially of chest pain complaints, difficulty in breathing and accidents. Once a boy attacked by a monkey fell down the hill close to the famous Jakhoo temple. Stationed not far from there, Prakash took about 10 minutes to reach the spot, administer first aid and take him to hospital. “It feels really good, when a life is saved,” he says.

These emergency medical technicians on bikes are trained to deal with every medical situation — from injury in an accident or a fall, to severe chest pain and loss of breath, or even snake bite.

Life-saving kit

The first responder emergency man on the bike is equipped with a kit with pre-hospital care utilities needed for stabilising the condition of the patient. These include lifesaving drugs, IV fluids and injections, a small oxygen cylinder, blood pressure checking apparatus, a sugar testing kit, a pulse oxy meter and nebuliser. The EMT is trained to even provide artificial ventilation and resuscitation.

A 24X7 doctor at the call centre gives advice to the first responder on how to treat the patient. The paramedics on bikes are stationed at what are called hotspots, to immediately rush within a radius of 20 km. In case the patient needs to be taken to the hospital, the paramedic calls for a four-wheeled ambulance with instructions on the kind of stretcher that would be required for the patient.

According to GVK Emergency Management & Research Institute (Himachal Pradesh), from the time the service was launched till June 30, the FRB ambulance service has provided first aid to 1,285 patients. GVK, in partnership with the State government concerned, is running FRB ambulances in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Goa. Himachal Pradesh is the first among the northern States to launch the bike ambulance.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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Published on July 12, 2019

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