Zully is an “angel” that flies, instead of wings, with a motorcycle loaded with medicines and medical supplies. An NGO of motorized paramedics attends road accidents in Caracas in front of the gaps of a deficient public health system.
The “Angels of the tracks”, as these twelve paramedics call themselves, attend free emergencies in the capital of Venezuela in the face of the “very difficult situation” of pre-hospital personnel dependent on the State, tells AFP Zully Rodiz, 38, an architect professional.
These volunteers with trades as diverse as architects, reporters and designers are trained in the health area. One of them receives a phone call: a man was injured in a road accident.
They board their high-displacement motorcycles and quickly arrive at the emergency site. It takes five minutes to immobilize the right leg of a motorcyclist who collided with a car and who shortly after will be taken to a hospital in an ambulance of the civil defense service.
Addressing traffic accidents corresponds to firefighters, but their budgetary difficulties made way for this NGO. Its members took health courses in hospitals and now, in alliance with doctors, they teach workshops to new applicants. Thus, the authorities allow them to act.
“They get excited when they see we arrive, they know we are equipped,” says Zully.
The foundation was born in November 2018, with the idea of helping with the low salaries of pre-hospital staff and the lack of resources.
“Here the paramedics are so poorly paid,” laments Rodolfo Alvarado, who left a municipal fire brigade to make a living by spraying. Patrol with the “angels” in their spare time.
“I prefer to do it for free on the days I can,” this 30-year-old man told the AFP.
In this country of 30 million people, there are just 206 intensive care beds in public health centers, according to independent organizations. The NGO Doctors for Health reported that in 2019 there was a shortage of 50% of medicines and supplies in hospitals and that more than 70% of these presented water or electricity failures.
– Fight fear –
With orange bags of about 15 kilos, full of private donations, the “angels” take turns on guards from 8 in the morning to 8 at night in a plaza in eastern Caracas.
They are not dedicated to the care of cases of the new coronavirus, centralized by the government, but they are “at high risk of contagion”, acknowledges Zully, a brunette with long black hair.
For this reason they wear N95 masks, protective screens, lenses, antibacterial and gloves and also wear face masks for the injured.
The NGO registered a fall in road accidents after a quarantine of the virus was declared in March. According to official figures, 4,048 infections and 35 deaths have been registered until Monday in Venezuela, questioned by organizations such as Human Rights Watch.
“You feel scared,” but “you’re not going to stop doing your job,” says Zully.
– “Guard every day” –
“When you’re immersed in this, you’re on call every day,” laughs David Mujica, 38, who listens to frequencies of police and firefighters on his radio, ready to board his motorcycle. It boasts of reaching the outskirts of Caracas in a few minutes if necessary.
“There are days where we don’t stop” and others “we are all day and nothing comes out,” explains his partner Rodolfo.
On quiet days they attend to the community: fainting, flu and high blood pressure are recurring among neighbors, mostly the elderly, who repay them with greetings, water and coffee.
Trembling, a 70-year-old woman approaches the perimeter that the volunteers marked with a yellow rope, in front of a rolling structure where they keep medical supplies. “It’s an anxiety attack,” you hear yourself say after your blood pressure was taken.
“Maybe a person has only one sprain (…), but that moment when you accompany him and give him support, changes lives,” says Zully with pride.