x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

No quiet life for Sharjah paramedics

The National gets behind the scenes with the central Sharjah Ambulance and Rescue Unit.

Mayflor Melecio Paquit from the Philippines at the Sharjah Ambulance and Rescue Unit. Jaime Puebla / The National
Mayflor Melecio Paquit from the Philippines at the Sharjah Ambulance and Rescue Unit. Jaime Puebla / The National

SHARJAH // Do not expect a quiet life if you live near the first junction of Sharjah’s Airport Road.

Almost once an hour, the air here is pierced by the screaming sirens of emergency vehicles leaving the central Sharjah Ambulance and Rescue Unit garages.

And the red and white buses return to base with as much haste as they left.

“Before long it will be going back out for another emergency,” said Capt Rashid bin Sandal, director of the unit.

“Responding promptly is what we are doing in every emergency, because a rescuer’s delay – however small, even one minute – can be disastrous and claim a life.”

There are 10 other rescue units spread out across the emirate.

The ambulances respond to emergencies and assign teams for large public gatherings, such as sporting events and school activities.

One of the worst aspects of the job is when paramedics are called out to take bodies to hospital mortuaries or forensics.

Capt Sandal’s unit responded to 7,339 call-outs last year for an average of 20 emergencies a day.

The most common was to attend to sick people in their homes,  accounting for 2,818 cases.

Ambulances were also called to the scenes of 2,275 traffic accidents last year and 1,135 injuries at public gatherings.

Another 546 call-outs were to attend to accidents such as drownings, fires and industrial incidents, and the remaining 565 cases involved collecting the dead.

In the first five months of this year, paramedics responded to 3,791 call-outs including 1,420 house calls, 1,174 traffic accidents, 460 other accidents, 450 sports or concert injuries and 287 collections of the deceased.

“The happiest part of the job is when you see an improvement in someone and you are sure you have saved him or her,” said Mayflor Melico Pacquit, a Filipina paramedic at the Sharjah ambulance unit.

“The worst moment is when you see someone losing his or her life, despite all your efforts to save them.

“You feel like being the first person to cry but that’s not professional, so you stay calm and help the family cope with the emerging tragedy.”

As in other emirates, emergency calls are patched through to the unit by the police operations room and an operator sends out a team from the closest unit.

When the rescuers arrive at the scene, the first priority is stabilising the victim’s condition.

“Our medics only give first aid and once the patients condition is stable then he or she is carried to the nearest hospital for treatment,” said Capt Sandal.

The paramedics also put together a patient profile sheet, where they collect all possible information related to the victim to be handed to the hospital staff on arrival.

The paramedics employed by Sharjah Ambulance and Rescue Unit all speak several languages, which is  a vital skill in a job that involves dealing with patients from so many nationalities.

Most are able to converse in at least Arabic, English, Hindi and Urdu.

Soon, the paramedics hope to add Chinese and Russian speakers to their team.

ykakande@thenational.ae