We looked across a ravine, which had become a terrible, raging river, and saw children on the other side. We threw ourselves at the river, using sustained ties to get in and out. As I carried the children across, I prayed to God they would not let go of me.
ZACATECOLUCA, El Salvador ꟷ Since the age of 10, I witnessed traffic accidents in my neighborhood. Growing up on the edge of a highway near the volcanic city of Zacatecoluca, with its dense population, the traffic never stops.
During the coffee harvest, people fill the streets. My brothers, uncle, and parents helped many victims. Assisting them as a child filled me with emotion and the images remain with me.
For 28 years now, I have made myself available 24 hours a day to serve the people of Zacatecoluca in the El Paz district of El Salvador. I attend to emergencies like traffic accidents, medical brigades, and social transfers.
When I arrive at an accident in my yellow shirt, I become a superhero. Attending to a patient who needs my attention, I give my heart, soul, and life to safeguard them. From the moment I arrive on scene and exit the ambulance, I begin evaluating the environment. We attend to patients from the moment of arrival until we reach the hospital.
One day, when I was 14 years old, my brother and I witnessed a vehicle run over a child who was our neighbor. If my uncles were there, we would have transported the child to the hospital, but this time we had to seek help. A group of adults nearby helped us stop a vehicle in traffic to take the child to the hospital.
Now, at 52 years old, I still feel those same emotions, no matter how much I study or prepare. Despite my training and diplomas in pre-hospital care and emergency delivery, I always feel fear attending the scene. What if the patient dies on the way? I begin every response praying the victim makes it to the hospital alive. Seconds can mean the difference between a patient living or dying.
Traveling to an emergency from one place to another is in my blood; it is not a job title. A team of us use a WhatsApp group when emergencies happen, to communicate and converge on the scene. I have attended emergencies like this throughout our nation.
Hurricane Ida killed and stranded hundreds of people in El Salvador in 2009. It was one of the most dangerous emergency responses I ever experienced. The strong storm destroyed houses and flooded neighborhoods. Evacuating people from La Paz became treacherous.
We looked across a ravine, which became a terrible, raging river, and saw children on the other side. The other responders and I had to act. We threw ourselves at the river, using sustained ties to get in and out. As I carried the children across, I prayed to God they would not let go of me.
Despite the challenges of this work, I see no obstacles; I am doing what I like. As president of the Commandos, pride and satisfaction fill me, knowing we are doing good. Our work is internationally recognized. We are the first to arrive and our response knows no bounds. We face emergencies, traffic accidents, natural disasters, and man-made catastrophes.
My work goes beyond emergency response. I open doors for other women in Comandos de Salvamento by offering assistance in financial arrangements. Additionally, I create healthy psychological and socio-emotional environments where they can gain leadership and experience empathy.
It is not difficult for me to be a woman and the president of the commandos. While I have not experienced negative comments or harassment, I am the only woman on the Board of Directors among eight men. The experience is curious at times. We all have opinions, and some may not be in my favor. Still, I remain content, as the process proves democratic.
Moving forward, I want more women to be seen as and take on the role of leader. With so many women in the institution, I hope more of them become recognized.
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