Vegetable vendor Samaritan of road traffic victims

By Diep Phan   June 20, 2020 | 09:00 am GMT+7
1 a.m., Tuan left his house after a phone call. On the other end of the line, a traffic accident has just taken place.

Over the past two years, Le Anh Tuan, 22, has had his sandals placed at the ready to leave his house as quick as possible, his reflective shirt, wallet and phone in constant close proximity.

Several minutes after the phone call, Tuan arrived on Le Hong Phong Street, Thu Dau Mot Town, southern Binh Duong Province. The victim, injured in a traffic accident, was taken to hospital in Tuan's ambulance after his broken leg was placed in a splint.

With the victim attended by his family, Tuan cleaned the blood from his ambulance, sanitizing the vehicle with alcohol, the entire event lasting only 30 minutes.

Tuan in his new ambulance, with a lot of medical equipment. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan.

Tuan in his new ambulance, equipped with vital emergency supplies. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan.

The incident was part of a hundred similar daily emergency procedures performed by Tuan, mostly from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., over the last few years.

"I only care about delivering victims to hospital and come home as soon as possible. I never wait for them to thank me or do anything in return," he maintained.

Several years ago, as an eight-grader, he dropped out of school to help his parents with their vegetable stall. At 18, he was given a van by his father, who wanted him to deliver vegetables and fruit from a local wholesale market at 2 a.m. daily.

Working in the wee hours, he encountered scores of traffic accidents that claimed many lives as emergency services failed to arrive on time. Two years ago, he decided to offer free emergency ambulance services in Thu Dau Mot Town.

"One morning, I saw a lot of blood stains on his clothes, which he confessed was due to having operated an ambulance for more than three months," said Le Thi Phuong Mai, 52, Tuan's mother.

Seeing his son, a formerly stubborn boy that enjoyed drinking and got into several traffic accidents himself, do such a good job, Mai and her husband lent Tuan their immediate support, though worried he might suffer fatigue.

"I saw him have breakfast at 9 a.m. because he was busy helping his mother, then he went to the wholesale market at night, I do not know where he gets the energy to drive the ambulance," said Nguyen Thuy Trang, 45, Tuan's neighbor.

In August 2019, Tuan planned to upgrade his motorbike, but later decided to spend the VND100 million ($4,288) to buy a used 16-seat van he turned into an ambulance equipped with a medical supply compartment, bench, light and horn, etc. Since, his improvised, mobile emergency room has helped save many lives.

While his family's income depends entirely on their small vegetables market stall, Tuan never charges anyone for a hospital delivery.

"Supporting those within 10 km of my place does not use up much gasoline. It is more like hanging out in the evening. Some try to pay me, but I always refuse," he confirmed.

In the last two years, over 300 victims have been saved by Tuan, who stresses he only wants to support the professional medics.

Tuan (L) helped a lost man to find his family on February 7, 2020. Photo courtesy of Le Anh Tuan.

Tuan (L) helped this lost man find his family on February 7, 2020. Photo courtesy of Le Anh Tuan.

"If they arrive on scene before me, I let them assist the victims," he said.

Trouble is not rare in this line of work. The families of several victims have called Tuan up enquiring about their belongings, while the hospital has occasionally required him to pay certain fees after patients simply vanished.

To void these problems, Tuan records all cases on camera to serve as his "alibi."

When asked to return patients to their homes who could not afford hospital fees, he instead contacted various charitable organizations for help.

2 a.m., having just finished a job, Tuan’s waiting parents are relieved to have their son arrive home safe and sound.

"Since he started operating the new ambulance, the old van used for deliveries never runs out of gas anymore, which leaves me way less annoyed," said Le Trung Tu, 56, Tuan's father.

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