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Crack paramedics prepare for world event

Armed only with an old, beat-up ambulance and a crusty map, the team will sit patiently waiting for the 6 a.m. bell to ring in a foreign land.

Armed only with an old, beat-up ambulance and a crusty map, the team will sit patiently waiting for the 6 a.m. bell to ring in a foreign land.

Once they cross the Prague start line next week, the five-man squad of Richmond paramedics - who make up Team Canada - have a grueling 16-hour shift ahead of them.

In a bold bid to be crowned Rejviz Rally 2012 champions, the highly trained professionals will be up against 140 teams from 16 countries.

They will have to be ready to tackle ten random medical emergency scenarios, anything from a pregnant woman in breach to a multi-car pile up.

All the while, they will have to deal with the inevitable language barrier, navigating a path through the Jesenik Mountains in the Czech Republic.

"We could end up in a field or in a lake; it could be one patient, it could be 12 - we have no idea," said team manager and Rejviz Rally veteran Clark McGuire, a semi-retired paramedic of 38 years service, whose passion is preparing the team for the event.

"One year, we actually had to cross the Polish border to save a 'drowning man.' Apparently, he dove off a cliff or something and was unconscious.

"There are judges at every scene, assessing your performance."

McGuire took teams to the rally in 2009 and 2005. They won gold in 2005.

"We've competed against physicians in the past and beaten them - there aren't too many needs for surgery out in the field, unless we need to cut someone's throat," he added.

"What we do is targeted life treatment stuff."

The Rejviz Rally is a competition and a conference, held annually and first staged in 1997.

As well as McGuire, who has planned the team's trip and its training for the last nine months, there is Lumir Popek, an ex-Czech Patriot, whose old school friend is the founding father of the event. He will act as the team's guide, driving and interpreting when needed.

The paramedics who will actually compete are the medivac team based out of YVR's south terminal - Kevin Lambert, Chris Naples and Rico Ruffy.

A sixth wheel on the journey will be another Richmond veteran paramedic, John Richmond, who has also competed in the rally in the past. This time, however, Richmond will be one of the judges. But if the jaunt sounds like a boys' holiday, don't be fooled. This team has been studying and training like their lives depended on it.

And they've been given a local helping hand at working with multi-agencies in emergency situations.

"On May 7, if anyone noticed an ambulance in Garry Point Park at the beach head and a hovercraft responding into the beach, that was us practicing," said McGuire.

"I asked the Canadian Coast Guard commanding officer what their schedule was like and, as it turned out, they were training a new captain in the river that morning and gave us eight minutes of their lunch hour (no public money wasted) - plus my team was on days off, as all practice days are.

"It was pretty exhilarating when I told the team they were receiving a post cardiac arrest hypothermic drowning victim, which a Coast Guard member played extremely well."

With such high-intensity preparation in the bag, McGuire is confident of a bold showing in the competition itself.

"I don't want to jinx anything, but we're a team capable of making the podium," he said.

"There's often a bit of ESL (English as a second language) difficulty with the tasks and there's often something lost in the translation, so that can be a challenge. But we'll be shooting for the top ten at least and take it from there."

However, it's not about going there to win, he cautioned. "We also go there to learn how they deal with a heart attack in Paris or a road accident in Prague. We go there to learn from each other."

There will be downtime, though, once the three-day event is behind them, with an invitation in Prague as guests of the Honourable Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, to a guided tour of the Old Royal Palace, the Vladislav Hall and the Cathedral of St.Vitus at the Prague Castle, an experience offered to few.

In addition, the team will be visiting with Valerie Raymond, Canada's Ambassador to the Czech and Slovak Republic at Canada's official residence in Prague.

And after their official duties, each team member is meeting up with their wives and partners and going off on separate travels around Europe for a welldeserved rest.

For more information about the team and its sponsors, go to

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