Old Louisville Ambulances Finding New Life in Guatemala

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A trio of retired Louisville EMS vehicles are embarking on the ultimate road trip. A group of local doctors and volunteers will drive the three ambulances to central America this week to help the residents of struggling towns in Guatemala.

The ambulances were retired by Metro EMS after their odometers rolled past 100,000 miles. Rather than allow them to rust or sell them, Metro EMS director Dr. Neal Richmond and local plastic surgeon Dr. John Barker worked together to find out a way to put the vehicles to good use.

Barker, who has made several medical mission trips to foreign countries over the years, thought donating the still-operational vehicles to areas in need would be a better than having them sit idle.

"We had these three big empty ambulances, and I thought that's a shame to have empty space," Barker said.

The ambulances won't be heading south empty. Louisville-based Supplies Over Seas and a local church are donating supplies and goods to take on the 2,900-mile trip. A local auto service store also gave all three vehicles a free tune-up to make sure they're capable of making the journey.

"It's just the fun of seeing something here that we're not using and something they could use so much," Barker said.

One of the ambulances will go to Hospicio San Jose de la Montana orphanage in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas. The orphanage is home to children who are HIV-positive. The ambulance will serve as a shuttle to take the children to medical appointments.

The city of Quiche, a community of 500,000, will also receive an ambulance. The vehicle will be used by the Bomberos, the town's fire department, and the local EMS service.

The volunteers will also deliver a vehicle to the village of Patzun, which was devastated following Hurricane Stan in 2005.The trip is expected to take about a week.

"It's a really great way to link with some community that has all the same needs as we do but very few of the resources," Richmond said. "People go to extreme lengths to get help, and we're just trying to give them a couple of tools."

Information from: The Courier-Journal,

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
AP-NY-06-10-07 1356EDT

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