On Wednesday September 11 the documentary film Paramédico made its United States Premiere at EMS World Expo. The film by Benjamin Gilmour, based on a book by the same title that he authored, follows four different crews at Emergency Medical Services Agencies from around the globe. The film features these four locales:
- Pakistan’s Rescue 1122, Pakistan
- Mexico City’s Red Cross, Mexico
- Venice EMS, Italy
- Hawaii EMS, United States
Absent the collar brass and polished speeches of chiefs and directors that seem so prevalent in other films of this subject matter, Gilmour‘s film provides a unique look at each of these agencies from a very front line ground pounding perspective that is refreshing to the genre equally revealing the good and the bad. While I greatly enjoyed Paramedic Kip from Hawaii EMS (a system I have decided I could retire to) and found the idea of responding via watercraft in Venice a novel concept, I was truly intrigued by the Mexico City and Pakistan stories.
Pakistan’s Rescue 1122 was founded in 2006 to serve the Punjab Province. They are providers of emergency medical services, fire suppression services, search and rescue services, disaster management, and water rescue services. The Emergency Services Academy provides a para-military training regimen for its providers. Although Rescue 1122 provides a variety of services, they appear focused on fulfilling the Emergency Medical Service first and foremost, making them the only EMS-based fire service that I know of.
Interestingly, it seems that Rescue 1122 crews are four man teams. The majority of their calls are traumatic in nature, either from roadway accidents or from explosions and bomb blasts. The film depicts a typical drill that the agency runs in locales where the building occupants are not informed of the nature of the event prior to its occurrence. In stark contrast to this, recently Boston’s Logan Airport had to apologize for a drill it ran even though it had announced it. The priority on preparedness and practice over the personal discomfort of the citizenry gave me a newfound respect for the work that they are doing at Rescue 1122.
Mexico City’s Red Cross ambulance crew was far more typical of what an American crew would consist of. With both a driver and a technician they respond to a variety of calls among the 8 million + population of Mexico City. Foreshadowing the plight of the crew, it is revealed that the ambulance has a broken fuel gauge which is too expensive to replace. When responding up hills to calls and the ambulance stalls out provides a moment of tension, quickly broken into comedic relief when the ambulance restarts after reaching level ground. The fuel issue repeats itself a few times during the film highlighting the challenges of all kinds that the Mexico City crews face.
One of the technicians featured in the film from Mexico City is Mitix Garcia Rodriguez. While there are the light hearted moments of her applying makeup while awaiting her partner to return with a can full of gas, a few round of spin the bottle at the station, and her being water boarded (EMS style, not CIA style) for her birthday, the film also explores a bit of the emotional toll it takes on her. Shootings and stabbings where upon their arrival it is more of a crime scene than a potential transport are prevalent in the area. The repetition of responding and being helpless wears on her physically, mentally, and emotionally. While the film notes that as an experienced provider she knows when she needs a break, I begin to wonder how many others out there are not as self aware, continue to be worn down, and are on the edge of running out of gas the same way the ambulance had numerous times previously.
Overall I absolutely loved the film Paramédico, and so did the packed room at EMS World Expo who gave it and its creator a standing ovation. The film brings a key aspect of EMS 2.0 into focus, learning from the experience of others. I highly recommend it for yourself, your partner, your station, and your chief to watch.
Check out this brief trailer for Paramédico:
I think it is imperative to help support the efforts of others who persistently present the world with an authentic perspective of the Emergency Medical Services in their work. Here is how you can get to all things Paramédico: