Hope and Heartbreak
on the Road
Volunteer-run ambulance service Vientiane Rescue is saving thousands of lives in the Laotian capital.
DRUNK, DRIVING & DANGEROUS
UNDER THE GLARE of bright, white headlights and flashing, purple-blue neon lights, emergency responders are attending to two youth, who crashed their motorbikes into a ditch. It is the first emergency call of the evening and the start of a typical night in the Laotian capital, Vientiane.
French paramedic and former firefighter Sébastien Perret is at the scene. He co-founded Vientiane Rescue in 2010 with seven local volunteers, mostly teenagers. Before Vientiane Rescue, Sébastien says that victims of serious accidents would often be left to die. It remains the country’s only free, emergency responder service. With the rising affluence in Laos, traffic has increased, resulting in more accidents.
"I think the first 18 months of work everything we did was just transporting bodies without any positive outcome." - Sébastien
According to the World Health Organization, about 90 per cent of crashes are due to drink-driving and speeding.
EVEN THOUGH road accidents are common in Vientiane, crash scenes still attract the morbid curiosity of bystanders. But for some, doing nothing was no longer enough. Instead, they were moved to take action, and signed up as volunteers with Vientiane Rescue.
ON THE FRONTLINE
JOHNSON IS SENT OUT on his first emergency of the night. He replaces the cake in his hand with the radio receiver in the ambulance, which receives updates from Mimi.