Oct 20, 2011
A toll-free ambulance service in the southern state has attended over 900 pregnancy-related calls and assisted the delivery of 29 children in less than six months.
In the 1960s, doctors used to extract babies in “difficult births” by attaching a vacuum suction cup to the top of their skulls. It signalled the arrival of a generation of children fondly referred to later as “vacuum” babies.
Now, the State capital is witnessing the arrival of a new band of children who might in future be described as “108” babies in tribute to the now ubiquitous toll- free number of the service. (In May 2010, the National Rural Health Mission and the State government launched the advanced life support ambulance service under the Kerala Medical Service Project (KEMP) in the district, the first of its kind in the State.)
Krishna, the latest “108” baby delivered by the emergency medical technicians of the ambulance service, is barely a month old. She is the 29th “ambulance baby” of her generation.
Her father Sunil Kumar is a rubber tapper in rural Aliyode panchayat in Nedumangad taluk. At 2 a.m. on September 20, his wife Vineetha developed acute delivery pain. Their small mud-walled hutment is in a remote and hilly locality and can be accessed only on foot.
Sunil says he had a difficult time guiding the medical team to their home. The team took an hour to arrive and helped Vineetha deliver her baby safely. After stabilising the mother and child, the ambulance staff shifted them to the taluk hospital.
“On that night, when there was no one at hand to help us or a vehicle to transport Vineetha to the hospital, this medical assistance seemed godsend,” he says.
Since May, the ambulance service has attended over 979 pregnancy-related distress calls. Many of the calls were from the rural poor, who have no quick access to hospitals and cannot afford private taxis or ambulances.
So far, the ambulance service has assisted the delivery of 29 children, many of them during transit to hospitals. All 108 ambulances are equipped with foetal monitors to check the condition of pregnant mothers and their babies.
Officials say that the ambulance service will be made more “baby-friendly” soon by adding neonatal emergency devices such as incubators and breathing devices. The staff will be given additional training to handle newborn and pregnancy-related emergencies at the field level.