A doc of the barrios and beyond
Last week was a whirlwind of sorts for the offroading community. Members have gone from enjoying their vehicles and their gear in the great outdoors, to wrangling their way through the suddenly “hostile” environs of the concrete jungle because of the sudden enforcement by Land Transportation Office (LTO) operatives of a six-decade-old law against allegedly unauthorized vehicle modifications, and then to the resulting online social media firestorm this issue has generated. Indeed, without even leaving the comforts of home, the people involved have become muddier than being in an actual offroad adventure, no thanks to all the mudslinging.
Thanks to cooler gearheads (from both sides) who have intervened, a dialogue has ensued, and from there, hopefully, a compromise can be reached.
I won’t have to add to the noise, and much has been said about the pros and cons (largely cons) of a supposedly outdated law the transport office is enforcing. This week, I really just want to share the story of one rescue doctor, and how his rig has enabled him to extend his life-saving expertise into the barrios, and even beyond.
I first met Dr. Ted “Everest” Esguerra 12 years ago. Then, he shared with me how he stood by the sidelines at the Everest base camp while members of the first Philippine Mount Everest Expedition (FPMEE) summited the world’s highest peak in 2006. Doc Ted was the group’s official physician. While monitoring his own team, Doc Ted and his caring instincts made him rescue climbers from other nationalities–an Indonesian, a Nepalese government official, and a Sherpa. Doc Ted had full credentials that made him fit for the task: He was a rescue doctor of the Philippine Coast Guard, specializing in wilderness emergency medical services and aviation medicine, and in high-altitude physiology.
Doc Ted’s stint with the first Pinoy Everest team that climbed Mount Everest was, shall we say, just the tip of the iceberg. For much of his professional career, his calling has made him go to far less known places, and in even far more dire situations.
Doc Ted has been part of many offroad expeditions on medical missions and relief distribution in places accessible only either by foot or by bigfoot 4x4s. He has joined several treacherous missions rescuing landslide and flood victims in mountainous areas.
Doc Ted came into mind at the height of last week’s controversy. I checked out his Facebook page. As expected, the good doctor gave his own two cents’ worth on the issue. But he didn’t resort to name-calling. He never insulted the transport office, he didn’t cry foul over the seeming selective nature of the apprehensions. In his consistently humble manner, Doc Ted simply aired the uncertainty of his future offroad missions, and that the existing law needed to be modernized, as well.
Instead of putting down “the enemy”, Doc Ted lifted his team. “Most of these areas (that we hold missions) are hard to reach, and these 4×4 teams helped (make) our mission possible because of their highly reliable equipment and vehicles,” wrote Doc Ted.
Doc Ted maintains his own 4×4 rig–his Rescue 1—a model 1999 Mitsubishi Pajero 4X4 Fieldmaster reconfigured into an RCV (rescue command vehicle). It has UHF, VHF and HF radios and repeater system with a weather-tracking device and beacons to guide aircraft. He told me that Rescue 1 is meant to be a model RCV meant to be copied by government for its own rescue and relief missions. Its roster of rescue kits could fill up a survivalists’ store: rope rescues; floodwater response; North American Rescue Walk with Talon helicopter stretcher and trauma kits; X-Collar; Kendricks extrication device and body splints; NAR Squad; 3-day survival; flares; Zoll Pro Defibrillator; advanced cardiovascular life support drugs, Basic to advanced airway kit, diagnostics (vital signs monitor, glucometer, thermometer and -portable capnometer and pulse oxymeter); car jumpstarter; fire suit; self-contained breathing apparatus; military chemical mask; bulletproof life saving armor; chainsaw; extra fuel and water cans; portable toilet; tent; go bag; pry bar; fire axe; shovel; search lights; car tools and lift jack. The works!
“With these modifications, plus the internal bags and pelican boxes containing advanced life support medical kits and light SAR/technical rescue kits, it is the only one in Southeast Asia with such equipage,” claims Doc Ted. He added that the driver and personnel are all advanced rescue operators and providers.
Since the time Doc Ted purchased his Rescue 1 in 2009, that RCV has been partly responsible for saving 21 lives as of latest count, Doc Ted claims. Of those 21, seven of them were in critical condition when they were found. Most of the victims were involved in vehicular accidents.
Among Rescue 1’s modifications are: 1) Lifted up to eight inches for flood operations; 2) Iron Exoskeleton for roll-over support; 3) Steel bumpers front and back with 1,500-pound-capacity winch; 4) Spring and shock absorbers AE sponsored by Ironman; Black Rhino mags and Nitto tyres sponsored by Concept One; 5) Roof rack to carry rescue equipment; 6) Six foglamps; 7) 6 LED lamps as working lights; 8) Awning to serve as treatment tent during disaster response missions; 9) A rotating search light.
Rescue 1 has proven itself time and again, Doc Ted shares, whether it be over chest-deep floods, over mud, or around landslide areas.
If a rig like that which Doc Ted drives can make it over such punishing terrain, how can it not possibly make the grade on well-paved roads?
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