Thursday, 2 October 2014

Emergency Medical Services in Turkey

When I was in Calgary two months ago, I had an opportunity to meet with a unique young man named Neil Patel. Neil is the one who introduced me to Couchsurfing and also the one who inspired me to leave my formal education just a year ago - while he did something of the same. But while I was sipping on coconut water in my beach resort for 8 months (you didn't actually believe my stories did you?)

man on beach
That's me on the left

Neil was hitchhiking through the Middle East. And as you can imagine, he has some pretty wild stories - but none of them interested me more than his experience inside a UN-run Syrian refuge camp. A self-educator and health advocate on all fronts, Neil decided that he must see what this looks like from the inside of a camp! Typically off limits to tourists (obviously), Neil, with nothing more than a little determination, the help of a Jordanian student - and surely no lack of ingenuity - wrote a letter in arabic convincing the UN to grant him access to one of their camps for a day. And a couple of weeks later, Neil made some friends among the Syrian refugees and exposed himself to a perspective of life unknown to almost all of us.

This is the only one that Neil took. He is the kind of guy who really gives it to you in person

Now, in my mind, I have accomplished the goals that I set for myself during my last trip in the grandest of fashions - which is actually why I was in Calgary in the first place, and happy to say that I will be returning to University this January - but seldom, I think, do I consider how boundless we can really be in accomplishing our goals. Neil, a Voyageur Sans Frontiers as such, quite obviously sees no boundaries between himself and the things that he wishes to experience. I think that we can all be inspired by Niel's attitude and boundless ambition - at least I can say that I certainly am!

When I rode in an ambulance for the first time in Canada, I got a taste of a career that seemed to me both real and satisfying. And based on this experience and my newfound inspiration, I set for myself a simple goal: To experiencing emergency medicine while travelling throughout the Middle East. It took me exactly 12 days to accomplish.

After arranging an ambulance rıde-along for December in London. I spent the first couple days in Turkey walkıng into Acil (pronounced aa-jıl) departments lookıng for english speakers - like this one here at Güven Hastanesi in Turkey's Capital, Ankara
Arriving in Ankara a couple of days ago without yet any real experience - I was determined to make this the place. I set out the first morning for some hospitals that I had marked on my map the previous evening and after about ten hours of walking through the city without much luck, I reached my day's final location. Not a hospital this time, but a government building belonging to the Health Directorate of Ankara - that is the Provincial branch of Turkey's Ministry of Health.

After walking through the glass doors and metal detector, I received my guest pass from security and was led up some stairs for the first of what was to be many times to come. And it was then that I got my first excited glimpse of Ankara's Command and Control Center.

In Turkey, calling 115 will get you police, 110 will get you fire, and 112 will get you someone in this room. It's much bigger than what I was able to capture here

An hour later I sat in the executive assistant translators office waiting for my meeting with the assistant director (long story). Anyway, Dr. Mehmet Akif eventually walked in and sat adjacent to me round a small coffee table. And after explaining who I was, why I was there, and showing him my documents - he stared for a bit at the Star of Life symbol on my t-shit, then told me to return at 1000 the next morning.

I arrived sharply at 0957 and was greeted by the translator I talked with on the previous day. In her hands, she had a signed order for my driver - the assistant director had apparently planned out the entire day for me! I was introduced shortly to my new translator and paramedic, and thus begun my adventure.

The Arabic-English-Turkish translator on the left carries with him a 24h phone - as he has sole responsibility for the whole city's arabic calls! He and the paramedic on the very right were the ones who led my tour. The motorcycle paramedic appears again later in this post post ;)

The first place that we visited was the servicing and re-stocking centre. It was here that I got my first look inside a couple of the city's different types of ambulances, and started to realise how much more well equipped we are here in Canada. I also got a quick look inside an ambulance when I was in London and saw that it too fell short. I must say guys - we live in a damn good country.

With a 180 degree screen in front and a rumble bottom - I'd say this simulator could be pretty fun.

Next on our list was an ambulance station. After a short drive to a hospital, we walked into a cosy collection of house-like rooms and I was offered my umpteenth glass of Turkish tea (Drinking tea is one of this countries strongest traditions. It's served with every meal, every meeting, and every time someone says a word starting with the letter a - I eventually got headaches). Here, four EMTs were just a couple hours into their 24 hour shift. Something we don't, by the way, usually do in Canada. Turkish EMS actually parts a numbers of ways from us around this point - you're going to have to ask me for my report if you really care to know how.

These are two of the lovely girls from the station - we got lots of pictures together... just a side note

Then it was off to the airport. It was here that I had some more problems with security. See, the ambulance service in Turkey is government run which means that many of the areas that I was able to visit are off limits to civilians, especially foreigners. As the translater actually told me while someone took my picture for the director (on the following day), "we are worried about you because you are young and this is a private building." Apparently my student story (true) got me into a very unique position! My translator also mentioned to me later that they were asking him about my behavior and my interest in what we were seeing. They seriously considered me to be a spy! ... Back to the airport. It was agreed that I could take pictures but just not of logos - so we'll pretend the one in the first picture bellow isn't there.

This is the plane with no logo on the sıde. remember?

And lastly, we went to an educational facility, the call centre, and some other place - but this is getting long

I was invited back the following day where I met with the actual Director and all of the Assistant Directors where we discussed, over tea (if you can believe it), the differences between our two Countries EMS systems. And thus completed one of my most enjoyable and enriching travel experiences that I have had thus far.

Both countries that I have visited in the past weeks (UK, and Turkey) use motorcycle ambulances (See video at bottom) - A service currently not provided in Canada

Now, although that story is kind of interesting and Neil's is even better - this is besides the point of what I really wish to share: I firmly believe that all doors, no matter how closed they may seem, are openable - that rules, guidlines, norms, and even laws are changeable (and certainly they do change!). You can very easily be an Étudiant Sans Fronteirs within any setting - you have within your own hands the power to create for yourself any opportunity that you please. With nothing more than a posıtive attitude and a little determination - you can experience anything. You just have to go out there and, well, do it!

You can't hear well, but when ever we got close to a car he would tell them to move out of the way usıng the PR system connected to a mic in his helmet.

Have a nice day,

Rylan :)

My pictures from around the world

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