One ambulance, one night: How three babies were born in remote Tripura
Kanchanpur: An efficient ambulance service can sometimes be the difference between life and death. The work of most ambulances end with delivering the victim/patient to the hospital. In Tripura, however, the 102 ambulance service took efficiency to another level and went beyond their mandate to ensure two women not only survived but were able to deliver safely inside the ambulance, all within a few hours.
Early on Monday morning, the government's 102 ambulance service received a call from Purbo Das Para, 15 km from the nearest sub-division hospital in Kanchanpur. The man on the other end said it was an emergency, as his wife, Anima Rani Nath, was suffering from acute labour pain and needed to reach the Kanchanpur hospital as soon as possible. Considering bad roads in the region, it took the ambulance 30 minutes to reach them, at 1:30 am.
While on their way to the Kanchanpur sub-division hospital, Anima's labour pains became unbearable. Realising the gravity of the situation, the ambulance's EMT staff nurse (the emergency medical technician) acted swiftly and told driver Himanshu Debnath to stop the ambulance. The duo then prepared themselves to help deliver the baby, inside the ambulance.
Debu Nath is a 27-year-old who joined the 102 emergency ambulance services in November 2020, and usually works a 12-hour shift between 8 pm to 8 am each day. It was his first time delivering a baby inside an ambulance.
“That night we were told to pick a patient from Purba Das Para. By the time we reached, the woman was suffering from acute labour pain. I asked the driver to get the kits and attempted the delivery of the baby myself,” Debu told EastMojo.
In great news for everyone involved, the duo managed to safely deliver Anima's baby within an hour, inside the ambulance. Anima and her family could not thank the ambulance staff enough. Both the mother and the child are in a healthy condition, and were discharged from the Kanchanpur sub-divisional hospital on Wednesday.
"It was possible because the ambulance was carrying all the necessary equipment," driver Himanshu Debnath said.
Just as Debu Nath and Himanshu Debnath decided to take a breath after a very eventful few hours at work, at 4 am, they received a call for another emergency.
This time, the roads were even worse. It took the duo 45 minutes to cover the 12 kms to reach Kalbi Reang's house in Govinda Para, Chandipur. Armed with some experience this time, they knew they needed to do something fast, as Reang's labour pains had already reached extreme levels by the time the ambulance got there.
After finishing his general nursing and midwifery course in 2019 from Vijayanagar College of Nursing in Bengaluru, Debu Nath started working at a Kolkata hospital, and decided to return to Agartala after six months. He worked at the Panisagar COVID Care Centre in Agartala for a month, before applying for the post of EMT and got hired with the 102 ambulance service.
While he has ample experience in assisting in deliveries at the Kolkata hospital, he had never helped deliver babies inside an ambulance.
“The second call came around 4 am and we rushed to the spot. The woman was in pain and again I had to start the delivery process inside the ambulance. The driver helped me with the kits to complete the process successfully," Debu said.
And yet again, for the second time in 4 hours, the nurse-driver duo helped another woman who could not reach the hospital in time deliver inside the ambulance. And Kalbi Reang was having twins.
"The mother delivered twin boys," Debu said.
The mother and her twins were then taken to the Kanchanpur sub-division hospital for further medication.
Subrata Nath, the North Tripura district coordinator, told EastMojo the 102 ambulance service provides free services to pregnant women, emergency patients, accident patients and all types of referral patients.
"We have been able to provide service to mothers in their hour of need. What else can make us happier than this," Nath said.
According to officials of the National Health Mission (NHM) in Tripura, the state has 50 ambulances dedicated for 102 services across the eight districts.
“We have distributed 50 ambulances across the state so that all 23 sub-divisions are covered. We have ensured that people in the remotest places are also able to get the service from 102 ambulances,” the official said.
Of the 50 ambulances, nine are operated in west, five in North Tripura, seven in south, six in Sepahijala, five in Khowai, seven in Gomati, four in Unakoti and seven in Dhalai.
The ambulances are equipped with basic life support (BLS) systems for the patients to be carried from home to hospital or to higher health facilities and back home after getting discharged.
"For every single ambulance, there is one assigned emergency medical technician (EMT) nurse and a driver who work 24x7 to provide free service to the people,” the NHM official said.
According to figures shared by state officials, the ambulance service handles close to 3,000 cases every month, including 700 to 800 delivery patients across the state.
The Tripura government had signed MoU with Community Action through Motivation Program (CAMP) NGO for providing service 24x7 across the state and staff are recruited by them. The service was launched by Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on 25 March, 2020.
“The ambulances reach the nearest commutable place within minutes after receiving a call from the patient's family. We often receive fake calls, which sometimes cause delays in providing service to those who need us the most at that time," the official opined.