In any medical emergency, the most crucial period is the reaction time. In most cases, it can quite literally spell the difference between life and death. Paramedics often refer to this as the Golden hour, which in emergency medicine terms, refers to a time period lasting anywhere from a few minutes to an hour following traumatic injury, cardiac arrest, stroke or any other life threatening injury.
Lifeline Ambulances know this only too well––after all, they have been working in this golden hour for almost twenty years now. And in that time, they have had first hand experience with the numerous challenges that Metro Manila roads can throw at motorists. Everything from bad traffic, ignorant village guards, closed roads––you name it, they’ve overcome it.
Which is why they decided to invest in a brand new fleet of vehicles for their newly formed, rapid response group. The mission is simple: get to the patient as quickly as possible. Period. But in peak hour traffic, a customized Ford E350 may not be the best tool for the job, so they decided to go with something a lot more nimble.
Initially, they were looking at pick ups. But seeing as the main task of the rapid response group was not to transport a patient, but to stabilize them and prepare them for transport, the idea of a small, frugal, maneuverable car that could carry two paramedics and the basics of emergency equipment on board just sort of sparked to life, if you’ll pardon the pun.
After testing various small cars out and making measurements, Lifeline decided to go with the Chevrolet Spark for its’ legendary fuel economy, versatility, five-year warranty, plus of course Chevrolet’s recent back to back number one rating in the JD Power customer survey index for after sales service. The fact that the Spark has helped save the world from Decepticons several times over didn’t hurt either.
The biggest challenge was getting all the medical supplies to fit. For this, they turned to a boat builder in Subic, Advance Composite Systems, Inc., where Angelo Olondriz and his team customized the rear of the Spark with marine plywood compartments to accommodate all the necessary items, and more importantly, organize it in a way that was consistent with the layout of the larger ambulances.
As Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) are used to working in a certain routine in order to minimize the down time lost by searching for a particular tool or supply, Olondriz and his crew needed to overcome the challenges of limited space, yet mirror the layout, all while keeping a third seat free in the back. No easy task, but after a couple of weeks, they came up with a modular system that everyone is happy with.
After finishing the shelving and loading it with two EMTs and all the equipment, however, the next concern was the extra weight and what effect it would have on the OEM tires and steel rims. For this, a set of 15-inch alloy wheels from ROTA were installed with heavy duty tires, which not just soaked up the extra load nicely, but gave the Spark a wider footprint and better handling and protection from potholes and other road hazards.
And the end result is what you see on these pages––Rapid Response unit 001 of what will be a growing fleet to service Metro Manila, and soon the outer limits and eventually the surrounding provinces. It also doubles up as the response unit for their Doctor on Call service, which is a private medical consultation home service offered to members who do not want to leave the comforts of their home, but don’t also want to draw attention to themselves by having a 7.3 liter diesel, V8 emergency room on wheels parked outside their homes, either.
But perhaps the most interesting service is the latest one that Lifeline have started to offer called Driver on Call. As these little Sparks will be stationed strategically around the metro with highly trained staff to respond to medical emergencies or house calls anyway, Lifeline are also putting them on standby to prevent medical emergencies caused by people who drive while under the influence of alcohol, the effects of heavy medication, fatigue or any other situation that leaves them impaired.
Basically, if anyone finds themselves in a situation where they feel that it is no longer safe to drive themselves home, Lifeline will dispatch this little Spark with two highly trained drivers (all drivers undergo driver training with Tuason Racing School (TRS) and drive you home in YOUR car with you as a passenger, while the Spark of Life tails you home to make sure everyone gets home safely.
Initially, at launch, the flat rate for a call out within Metro Manila is 500 pesos, which anyone who can afford a bucket of beer and a car will agree is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Eventually, Lifeline plan on introducing zones to make it more affordable to those who don’t live too far from where they are partying and are not too proud to use the service, and also to minimize the losses incurred from the extended trips.
It is a service that was only informally launched last month, and in the first week alone, they picked up and drove home 15 responsible drivers who felt that the roads would be safer without them behind the wheel. May not sound like much, but its a start. And if it saved just one life, then it was all worthwhile. Lifeline have only agreed to absorb the losses at first in order to prevent accidents rather than respond to them. Because had they thought about it from any other angle, the accountants would still be arguing over it; and if there is anything they have learned in their business, it’s that life and death is always about the reaction time.