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null Rapid Response Team: The Firefighter Doctors

Rapid Response Team: The Firefighter Doctors

From the outset, one may not expect much action of Doctor Priselia. Her petite figure non-imposing, covered in t-shirt and a purple floral hijab that matched the color of the blood pressure gauge that she always carries with her. Yet, a day in her life includes patrolling from post to post to check on the health of the firefighters on duty during wildfires.

We met Priselia in Londerang Village, which is situated at the border between East Tanjung Jabung and Muaro Jambi. “Seeing a lot of patients today?” I asked. She answered, “I have just traveled from one post to another, where the firefighters are on duty. I see about 10 members every day.”

Priselia, who joined the team only six months ago and was deployed to Jambi, was a doctor at Eka Hospital Pekanbaru. Her workplace now is a green tent, where 20-30 firefighters can be seen taking turns to rest. They sleep on a tarp, with backpacks as their pillows. Around them, a few smaller tents stand tall.

“We are requesting for additional medicines and portable oxygen tanks. In this situation, it is more effective to equip firefighters with portable oxygen tanks. As thick haze cuts the brain’s oxygen supply, firefighters can easily feel dizzy,” said Priselia after checking one of the firefighters and giving him vitamin to prevent sore throat.

Having to examine the firefighters in the middle of the forest together with a driver, Priselia has to deftly get in and out of the ambulance in an instance. She looks tiny compared to the huge ambulance. There is no telling how long she will continue to be on duty in the field.

“I was actually not the only doctor around here, there were others, but I was closest to the area at the time. That’s why they assigned me on this mission,” she said. The doctor, having completed her study in 2017, had actually been enjoying work in the capital city of Jakarta before. She, however, wanted to take on a new challenge by returning to an outer city she knew very well: Jambi.

After a day of checking on firefighters, she takes a short break. Just before 9 or 10 PM, she then returns to her post. At the same time, the firefighters will return to the tent to rest. Priselia needs to check on their health before they go back to work the next day.

As a doctor, Priselia has her own hygiene standards. A mask is always flung around her neck, and will move to cover her nose when she comes in contact with haze. A self-proclaimed nerd, she was surprised to find herself enjoying the challenges of being on the ground.

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