- Himanshu Kalia started a free ambulance service in 2002
- The husband-wife duo has helped over 80,000 patients
- Anyone requiring ambulance service in Delhi-NCR can call on +918804102102
New Delhi: Circa 1992; one evening in Delhi, 14-year-old Himanshu Kalia’s father met with a road accident and the way the tragedy unfolded for the family was devastating. The accident occurred at 7pm but Mr Kalia got admission to AIIMS hospital in the national capital at 2am as a result of which he slipped into a coma. Recalling the unfortunate incident, Himanshu Kalia said, “For seven hours, we drove my father from one hospital to another in auto-rickshaw and rickshaw because we could not find an ambulance for him. When we finally managed to get into the hospital, the doctor asked, “Do you think he can be saved now?” The doctor informed us that my father has slipped into a coma due to a delay in treatment. That day it was not just my father who was in a coma, but my whole life and education went into a coma with him.”
However, Mr Kalia came out of a coma after two years and was advised complete bed rest for the next two years. But his son had decided that he doesn’t want any other child to face what he and his family had gone through. Over the next few years, Himanshu Kalia worked at different places to make ends meet.
Later, in 2002, before my wedding, my in-laws offered me a car, home furnishings, electrical appliances and other things but I refused all. They said, we want to gift you something so, I said, give me an ambulance and on the day of the wedding, outside our marriage hall, a new ambulance was parked, shared Himanshu Kalia.
And that is how Mr Kalia’s journey of providing free ambulance service to people in need began. Known as the ‘ambulance couple’, Mr Kalia and his wife Twinkle Kalia ferry the ill to hospital, fetch medicines, arrange funerals and sometimes, step in to perform last rites. The duo continued their service even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talking about how his wife got involved, Mr Kalia said,
In 2007, a year after our daughter was born, my wife was diagnosed with the last stage of jaundice. Further tests showed that it was not actually jaundice but Hepatitis B for which there is no treatment worldwide. Doctors said that she will live only six more months and till then she cannot feed the baby, chop vegetables, and even conceive. A senior doctor asked us to get Liver Function Test done every week to assess how many days of her life are actually left. I informed everyone I had helped in the past about my wife’s condition and asked them to pray for her. Meanwhile, I continued with my service and parallely, my wife underwent regular tests.
After six to seven weeks, when Mr and Mrs Kalia showed up at the doctor’s with their LFT report, the doctor asked for a retest. Mrs Kalia took the same test from four different places and all reports were negative.
Ask any doctor and they will say that a Hepatitis B positive person can never have a negative report but my wife tested negative. After a week, she was completely normal. The whole incident motivated her to help other patients, said Mr Kalia.
On March 8, 2019, Mrs Kalia who claims to be India’s first woman ambulance driver was felicitated with ‘Nari Shakti Puraskar’ by the President of India. Mrs Kalia continued working during the COVID-19 pandemic even after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
In 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mrs Kalia underwent two surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy as part of her cancer treatment. The medical treatment had taken out every ounce of energy and strength from her body but that didn’t deter her spirit. Despite being advised strict bed rest for six months, Mrs Kalia went back to the ground, helping COVID patients reach the hospital and assisting in cremation. When asked what motivates her, Mrs Kalia said,
I feel God gave me a second lease of life with the purpose of helping others.
The ‘ambulance couple’ sells insurance for a living and puts almost everything they earn into helping people. Sometimes they also get donations in the form of someone paying for the fuel. The duo along with 10 other people in their team run a free ambulance service and have helped over 80,000 people in almost two decades. Sharing an anecdote, Mr Kalia said,
Recently, there was a case in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar where a family was forced to roam around the streets with the body of a loved one who had died of COVID. Nobody was ready to help them. Their residential society was not allowing them to take the body inside the colony. We accepted that dead body in our ambulance, and took it for cremation.
In the COVID-19 pandemic, they have transported around 200 dead bodies and 400 patients. To protect themselves, the team follows COVID precautionary measures including regular sanitisation of their ambulances and also wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The service that started from North Delhi now covers all parts of the national capital. The team also takes non-emergency requests like taking a patient from hospital to home or transporting a dead body to the cremation ground from other nearby areas like Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Gurugram, and Sonipat.
Our control room is in Pratap Nagar and we try to address almost all requests that come on our number +918804102102. In 2002, when I started, I had put up posters and boards outside hospitals and pharmacies. But over the years, our service got recognition through word of mouth and during the pandemic our numbers were being shared on WhatsApp groups.
Thanking the couple, a beneficiary said,
Till now, I had seen God in many shapes and forms. Today, I have seen God in the shape of a human being. It is thanks to Himanshu and Twinkle, that I could give my wife a proper farewell. Without them, it would not have been possible. In this hour of need, nobody came to help me, except Twinkle and Himanshu.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.