A Brooklyn Ambulance Service Speaks Chinese, Like Its Patients
Midwood Ambulance in Brooklyn, a private service, has two new vehicles staffed by Chinese-speaking health care workers to respond to New York City’s growing Asian-American population. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times
In the back of an ambulance the other day, an anxious father-to-be rattled off his wife’s medical history in Cantonese as she went into labor. It took the two emergency medical technicians onboard, both fluent in Chinese, just seconds to act, and they pulled the ambulance over to the side of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive in Manhattan after learning that the couple’s first child had been born quickly.
In less than two minutes, they delivered a howling baby boy. “The fact that I can speak their language was a tremendous help,” said Jason Lau, 26, one of the medical technicians who helped deliver the baby.
The dramatic birth was a first for a new service started by a private ambulance company in Brooklyn that provides Chinese language emergency medical care to New York City’s growing population of Chinese immigrants. The company’s three amubulances with Chinese-speaking health care workers have already responded to calls beyond Brooklyn — including Chinatown in Manhattan and Flushing, Queens.
The service was started last month by Alonzo Rapisarda, 42, who lives in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn and traces his family’s roots to a great-grandfather who immigrated to the United States from Italy. During the three generations of Rapisardas who have run the family business, Midwood Ambulance, the south Brooklyn area has changed, from historically Jewish and Italian to largely Chinese.
Alonzo Rapisarda runs Midwood Ambulance. He started hiring Chinese-speaking dispatchers and other employees several years ago. Photo credit by: Ángel Franco/The New York Times
“Think about it, in Marco Polo’s time, he visited China and we gave him good things: spaghetti and pizza,” Mr. Chung said with a laugh. “I think this is the best thing about human culture — we know each other and we’re sharing and who knows what good things pop-up.”
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