For Sri Lankans, accidents, injuries and death are a daily reality. The small tear-shaped island off the coast of India has been immersed in a violent civil conflict for decades and was slammed with a massive tsunami in 2004. Despite the violence and natural disasters, Sri Lankans do not have an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system in place. Patients requiring emergency care have been responsible for transporting themselves to the hospital, an undertaking which often causes additional injuries or even death.
Medical Teams International, a relief and development agency based in Oregon, is working to bring an EMS system to this country of almost 20 million—one first responder at a time. Ian Yocum and Kraig Moisan, paramedic/firefighters from Oregon, both traveled to Sri Lanka last spring with Medical Teams International to assist with the project. Yocum and Moisan have another EMS training team planned for this April, this time in Vietnam. They will train Master Trainers, local volunteers who will teach EMS skills to others in their community for years to come.
For Yocum, the most exciting part of his work with Medical Teams International is being part of a new EMS system.
“I helped teach the future ‘grandfathers of EMS’ in Sri Lanka,” he says. “That is something I could never do in the U.S., since our system is already set up. I got to be part of what their system will be someday. Lives will continue to be saved years from now because of what we are teaching today.”