Grab rider turns first aid hero

By Pham Nga   April 27, 2020 | 09:04 pm PT
Following a severe traffic accident, Pham Quoc Viet understood the desolation of the victim, enrolling in a first aid course to help others.

On a sunny day, a woman fell from her motorbike after colliding with a car. When passersby did nothing, Viet, wearing a red cross armband stopped, carried the victim to the pavement, and applied first aid.

Without his ride-sharing uniform, people could mistake him for a doctor.

"Are you a motorbike taxi driver? My husband too. Thank you very much," the bandaged woman told Viet.

He smiled and handed her a business card for his first aid team.

At 11 p.m., Viet returned to his apartment in Hanoi’s Thanh Tri District only to receive a message from an unknown number.

"You saved me today. Thank you and sorry," the woman said, adding her husband had wanted to join the first aid class but eventually declined.

"He asked me whether he should join. I asked him why if he didn’t get paid to do so." 

Viet replied with a smiley emoji, telling her to join the class with her husband in future. He has never met her since.

Viet in his uniform with a red cross armband. Photo courtesy of Viet.

A dapper help always ready to assist. Photo courtesy of Pham Quoc Viet.

Viet is the manager of Angel First Aid Rescue Team, its members spending their own money to buy medic supplies etc.

"Motorbike taxi drivers do not earn much, and not all are willing to join the team."

Four years ago, Viet had an accident while commuting to work in the northern province of Tuyen Quang. He was almost paralyzed, with the driver who had hit him in a coma.

"I was still aware of things at the time. I lay there, hoping people would come and save us, but they only passed by," he recalled.

With dozens of trucks roaring past, he finally managed to raise his right hand, calling for help.

"The loneliness still haunts me. I do not want anyone else to experience the same feeling," said Viet, coming from the northern province of Nam Dinh.

One year later, he left Tuyen Quang for Hanoi, and started work as a motorbike taxi driver. Now, whenever he spots an accident, he does not hesitate to offer his assistance. 

With his grandparents, parents and brothers all doctors, Viet first learnt first aid in the army.

"Rescuing people is in my genes, passed down from older generations," he stated, adding he had been trained by Survival Skills Vietnam, an organization providing courses on essential survival and first aid skills.

In September 2018, Angel First Aid Rescue team was established with five members. To date, it has attracted 20 members and dozens of volunteers.

Pham Nhat Quang, 30, was once a rescuee. After an accident in 2019, he was sitting on the pavement, seeing Viet apply first aid to the unlucky victim.

Quang is now one of the most devoted members of the team.

"This job is both meaningful and useful, so I joined," Quang maintained.

They meet once a week to exchange information and skills.

"Previously, we helped nine people per day on average, but the number has decreased to 3-4," explained Viet, who has stuck up a hotline number at many traffic hotspots across Hanoi.

Standard procedures include taking photos of victims for a chat group managed by the team, local police and families. 

With their locations shared, other members could easily come and offer support.

Sometimes, injuries are so severe all the team can do is call emergency services.

A training class of Viet and his teammates. Photo courtesy of Viiet.

Viet and his teammates undergo a training course in 2019. Photo courtesy of Pham Quoc Viet.

"Viet is brave," said Trang Jena Nguyen, co-founder of Survival Skills Vietnam. She added not everyone has the necessary experience and skills.

Appreciating Viet and his teammates’ work, Trang has traveled to Hanoi twice to train them and offers ongoing support. 

"In our country, traffic accidents claim around 7,000-8,000 lives annually. Timely first aid could mean the difference between life and death," Trang said, adding many Vietnamese do not have first aid skills, which is why the model of Viet’s team should be spread to save more lives.

"I wish my team’s model could spread beyond Hanoi, so traffic accident victims would never feel abandoned," Viet agrees.

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