In Nagaland, car gifted by father used as free ambulance

After Hongnao Konyak’s free service, Mon town now has three ambulances, with one dedicated for COVID-19 patients

Former Nagaland school teacher Hamshen Konyak had a piece of advice for his son after handing over the keys of a brand new SUV bought from his retirement benefits three years ago: “Put this gift to good use.”

The son, 39-year-old Hongnao Konyak, did better. He turned the SUV into an ambulance to ferry the sick and their attendants for more than three months during the COVID-19 lockdown phases.

His 100-day service ended in August after Mon, the headquarters of Mon district about 330 km from State capital Kohima, received the first of its three ambulances from the government and a Gurugram-based NGO.

Mr. Konyak, a social worker and a member of the district unit of the Naga People’s Front, was not just a “self-styled driver” of a “makeshift ambulance” when the district had none.

He often became the attendant of an unaccompanied patient and an interpreter for villagers who spoke different dialects of the Konyak tribal language that non-Konyak doctors and medical staff did not understand. He also organised blood donors, bringing them to the District Hospital Mon (DHM) and dropping them back home.

One such beneficiary was the brother of Methna Konyak, a haemophilia (a genetic disorder that affects blood-clotting) patient who needed five units of blood of A+ group.

“It would have been difficult to get blood for my brother without Hongnao’s help. A person who uses his own vehicle, burns fuel and helps the sick get treatment in time during difficult times is a rarity,” the patient’s brother said.

“Hongnao was a massive help during the lockdown when patients could come from faraway villages because of the lockdown,” said DHM’s Medical Superintendent Khrielasanuo.

“I could not let my car be parked idly when in-patients of the district hospital, designated a COVID-19 hospital, had to be relocated. I met district authorities with the proposal of providing round-the-clock ambulance service with my car,” Mr. Konyak told The Hindu from Mon.

He ferried patients to and from various towns and villages in the district as well as hospitals in adjoining Assam. “I must have transported some 150 people, including pregnant woman for delivery. The DHM asked me to keep a record but I did not do this for the records, neither for getting anything in return,” he said.

Only once did he receive some help — a gift of 50 litres of diesel from a fuel outlet owner in Mon town for enabling his “service to mankind”.

After his 100-day service, he stayed a month at the Mon Covid Control Room voluntarily monitoring quarantine, recovery, and other health centres.

Mon’s District Magistrate Thavaseelan K. said the district administration did not waste time in permitting Mr. Konyak to ferry non-COVID-19 patients but by adhering to all safety protocols.

“We are grateful to people like him and organisations such as Konyak Union for helping the administration during the toughest phases of the pandemic,” he said.

A week ago, the State government announced that DHM — one of Nagaland’s cleanest hospitals — would be upgraded to a medical college. Locals feel the makeshift ambulance could have played a role in this decision.

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