The Guardian Angel of Guatemala: Profiles by VICE
Here in Guatemala, the fire department gets called for everything. We have a paramedic unit, and we have a hazmat, we have animal control. We have disaster control.
Obviously fires. The gunshot wounds here in the city prevail a little bit more, we have around 10 to 15 per day. And on the weekends Just in the metropolitan area we are sent to 2530. The violence that we see here, It’s actually the same type of violence that we saw during the war, with High-velocity projectiles from AK-47s from MCCs, from many uses. These are trained acts guerrilla, these are organized gangs. People that used to be soldiers, or people that used to be guerrillas all of a sudden, they were unemployed. So all they knew what to do, was kill. [Child crying and wailing] My name is Jorge Chiu. I’m a physician. I work at the Volunteer Fire Department here in Guatemala. I’m a cardiothoracic surgeon, that donates his time for the fire department. After I finish working, generally, I come in and give volunteer service. I believe in that greater good. [Fireman] …that’s the problem, this are the houses that are improvised, and secondary to that. They just throw their garbage in the backyard, so this is what happens. It caught fire, and the fire went up, it already burned one of the little houses, that’s we were trying to confined it. But as you can see this, again a pile of just crap there Here in Guatemala police, [we] don’t take people into custody for public intoxication. So it’s very common sometimes, they get really drunk and they just die on the streets. [unintelligible] caballero, como estamos? [Let’s go!] Hmm. See these guys are out of their minds. They’re not even drinking rum, it’s like pure alcohol. This is what happens. They’re getting toxicated. They just pass out in the middle of the road, and then a car drives on top of it. I have to make sure that air is, all the air is out from the engine before we can hit the road again. Pain in the ass, and sometimes if we delayed a little bit longer, I have to open the hood, go into the engine. Kind of… you know. Lead it a little bit to get the air out and then close it again, so it sucks. cause, you’re dealing with blood, and then you’re dealing with diesel. But you have to be a doctor, a paramedic, a firefighter and a mechanic. We’re just going to go in check, and I call it inside the city dump. This is a city by its own, has its own rules. The government tries to not let any cameras inside. Looks like the kids, they just get clothes, new clothes from the garbage and they just change. So it’s really sad. Look at the atmosphere. How much dust and filth there is around. It’s very difficult to localize a patient here because the smoke, the air quality, the dust. There’s so much disease here. A lot of people are walking in the garbage, and they just fall into pockets of air and they disappear. And we never find them. Ever. Kids like these ones are prone to have all these infections. They have biological waste, plastic waste, the toxic waste, chemical waste, everything is here. And I will be also pretty surprised if these people don’t have outbreaks of different cancers. And then we have the problem also like there, that it’s smoking the garbage and starts fires, because all the methane that accumulates underneath that, blows up. So this is the other side of the coin of Guatemala, that a lot of even Guatemalans don’t even get to see. quadate quieto! He got off of his car, and he was ready to probably open the gate or something. Somebody came close to him and in close range took a shot to the skull. It doesn’t look like a vengeance, it doesn’t look like like a gang-related. It looks a little bit more like a personal thing that somebody had against this this person. Police generally just secures the area, but they don’t take any action. Actually, all they do is a just a secure the area, and then you know, CSI will try to, kind of, find out w-what’s going on? So, at this point, we exactly don’t know. A lot of things from, from what it’s going on or what happened. Look at the dog licking the blood. Happy, why were you drinking the blood of the dead person? Huh? That’s not okay. This is an area, that has a lot of conflict. Not only with gangs, drug dealing and a lot of crime. This area is actually patrolled by the army on weekends, there’s shootouts. Right now we have a, collision of this bus, that apparently the brakes went out and the driver of the bus, apparently he fled the scene, but they captured him. So, right now, I’m just making sure that he doesn’t have a chest trauma. If he has a pericardial effusion, his pressure will drop. I really wish, wish they will give me more space to work, you know. [Cameraman]: Yeah. This is like a cluster flock , being here with all these people around. Fucking crazy man. If I wouldn’t be here, they probably will just bring him in a patrol car, and he will have died. When we were right here, you know, taking care of these people from the bus, there were two shootings in some other areas of the city that we missed. So you know, I’m the only doctor right now, taking call for the fire department in the whole city. Wherever I go that people gets lucky and the People that you know, I don’t get to go, they just become unlucky. See a lot of people waiting outside. [unintelligible over the radio] [Cameraman]: Yeah, how come is anybody inside. T-these are family members. A lot of these people come wounded. We don’t know if they’re gang members, we don’t know if they’re drug dealers. There’s a gate, where they don’t let regular people just walking and ask for their relatives because they’re afraid of them. [They] will come in finish shooting, so sometimes working in the emergency departments can be a big, big risk. He got hit by a car actually. He got shot, he was running away, and he got hit by a car. The average wounded patients that we have, are from our high-velocity projectiles are around seven to ten per week. You barely have equipment, and a lot of times, it’s not even sterilized. They have to re-utilize the equipment, so it’s kind of like a war zone. I just find enormous pleasure, to see that somebody is alive, because of me. More than what I’m going to earn in monetary wise. Do we have a lot of risks? I think yes. We have also a lot of rewards and, and we are very proud of what we do. We try to think at least, that we make a difference.