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Helping accident victims for 23 years

In a few seconds, a woman was thrown 30 metres away from her car and her lower body was severely injured. Paramedics rushed to save the woman involved in a traffic accident.

  • Rescue helicopters have always been used to reach the site of an accident where it was impossible for ambulancImage Credit:Gulf News Archive
  • Over the years, rescue helicopters have changed drastically. They are now equipped with advanced life-saving eImage Credit:Supplied Pictures
  • Clockwise from top left: Paramedics Gregorio, Risalino, Joselito and Danny. Image Credit:Supplied Picture
Gulf News

Dubai: In a few seconds, a woman was thrown 30 metres away from her car and her lower body was severely injured. Paramedics rushed to save the woman involved in a traffic accident.

It was sometime in the mid 1980s and paramedics did not have backboards or advanced equipment, so one of them, Gregorio, used wooden sticks to immobilise her leg.

Twenty-three years on, the changes in ambulance services have not only been cosmetic - yes the uniforms have changed but so has live-saving equipment.

Four paramedics from the Philippines who joined the ambulance services in the 1980's have witnessed massive changes.

Gregorio, the senior among the four, said first aid equipment back then was basic, comprising some medicines and an oxygen pipe.

He said there were no immediate alert devices in ambulances that helped them respond in minutes.

"Those days, one paramedic and one driver from police used to be in the ambulance, unlike today where there are two paramedics and a driver in one ambulance," Gregorio said.

Risalino, his colleague, said there were only four ambulance stations those days, in Bur Dubai, Jebel Ali, Al Rashidiya and in Al Muraqqabat.

"The first ambulances we had were Range Rovers -this was from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Then we had Mercedes Benz as ambulances and later GMC ambulances," Risalino said.

He said the stretchers at that time were "very heavy and double their sizes" and what added to the burden was that there was only one paramedic to carry the patient.

"It was difficult to carry patients by ourselves as paramedics, so we used to ask for help of the ambulance's driver sometimes and bystanders at other times," he recalled.

No female paramedics

Gregorio said there were no female paramedics those days, which made their job even more challenging.

He said many women and their families had inhibitions on being treated by male paramedics. Therefore, in some cases, they had to explain and tell their relatives what to do and how to carry out first aid on women.

He said now there are many female paramedics, which has made the job easier.

Danny, a paramedic at Dubai Police's Air wing, said in the 1980s their uniforms were light green nylon T-shirts and pants.

"The material was very uncomfortable because it used to get hot in hot weather and cold in cold weather," he said.

Risalino said when they used to go on calls, people used to think they were company workers because of the uniforms and they had to show their IDs. In late 1980s, the uniforms became white with red ties.

"We used to get dirty in those white uniforms even before starting our duty," Joselito, another paramedic, said.

He said after that the uniforms changed to blue and white and they have stayed that way.

Personal experience

Although the four men have attended to numerous accidents during their careers, there are certain incidents that still remain fresh in their minds.

Danny said the first case he attended was a pregnancy case where the woman was being escorted by a female nurse to look after her until she reached the hospital.

"I was taking care of the nurse because she was feeling sick in the helicopter ... it was the first time she was on a chopper. I had to take more care of the nurse than the patient," he said.

Risalino said the first accident he attended to was a head on collision in which a victim suffered multiple injuries, fractures, his legs were twisted and he was lying on the road.

"I provided first aid to the victim and asked the help of the driver because I was alone. After that, we called for back up from the hospital, but the victim died after a week. It was my first day at work and I was soaked in blood," he said.

Joselito said the accident he remembers was on Ras Al Khor. "There were about 20 causalities in that accident and we were only two paramedics.

" We had to make difficult decisions as to which victim we should attend to first. We divided the work and controlled the situation because we were able to apply what we had learned theoretically," he said.

The four paramedics are so passionate about their profession that they want to continue working until they are needed.

Gregorio: A 63-year-old paramedic, started working with Dubai Police's ambulance services on August 21, 1984. He is married with seven children, 4 boys and 3 girls.

Risalino: A 50-year-old paramedic joined work on July 4, 1984. He is married with two children, a boy and a girl.

Joselito: A 50-year-old paramedic joined work on March 16, 1988. He is married with two children, a boy and a girl.

Danny: A 49-year-old paramedic at the air wing joined work on May 21, 1985. He is married with two children, a boy and a girl.