Ollur: India's roads claim many lives every day and a few of the dead could have been saved if they had received prompt medical attention. However, emergency response system is in its infancy in the country. The immediate rescue of accident victims by witnesses is limited by the fear of legal wrangles. A woman here in Kerala's Thrissur district has no such qualms as she volunteers on behalf of an NGO to accompany people hurt or immobilised on roads.
A bitter personal experience had spurred Shobana Pushpangadan to take up the noble mission. At the end of a nervous wait outside the ICU, where her husband, a heart patient, was battling for life, Shobana heard those words of helplessness from the doctor: "If only he had been brought here just 2 minutes before..." Walking out of the hospital, Shobana resolved that no victim of road accident, she would be a witness to, will die due to that crucial two minutes' of delay.
Since the day she took that momentous resolve, the native of Kuriachira and mother of a girl, has saved no less than 15 lives from road accidents in 2.5 years. Her first life-saving mission happened as she was riding her scooter through the Thrissur market. An auto driver was seriously injured in his leg after his vehicle overtuned, but nobody came forward to take him to the hospital. Shobana swung into action and stopped a passing car and rushed the injured driver to the hospital.
It is the fear of becoming a witness in the accident cases that dissuades people from rescuing the victims, Shobana noted. In order to address this issue, Shobana became a member of the ACTS (Accident Care and Transport Service) voluntary organisation. (A Supreme Court directive to the police and hospitals protects ACTS volunteers from being forced into becoming witnesses.)
So far Shobana has accompanied 14 victims to hospitals from various locations. The one she recollects most vividly is rushing an accident victim from Christopher Nagar in Ollur to the Medical College. A native of Ernakulam, he spent several days in the ICU. After recovering, he had called and thanked Shobana for rescuing him.
Shobana, who runs a tailoring shop at Kuriachira, is also the district secretary of the women's wing of the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti (KVVES) and director of the Kuriachira Service Cooperative Society.
Her daughter Ashwathy is also a member of ACTS.