On January 6, 2007, my motorbike skidded under a truck on the ring road around Paris. The call went out for the SMUR Mobile Emergency & Intensive Care emergency team [Service Mobile d’Urgence et de Réanimation, also known as “SAMU”]. They spent hours there on the road with me. It was night and I can still recall the lights, sounds, feelings and fear. My life was suddenly in the hands of perfect strangers, hands that undressed me, prodded me, gave me an intravenous drip and ended up saving my life.

For more than a year (from September 2008 to late 2009) I made regular visits to the hospital in Gonesse, north-east of Paris, to photograph the work done by the emergency SMUR teams.


SMUR is a mobile hospital, in a truck, with a doctor, nurse, one or two firemen/paramedics and an extern, providing the same care as in a hospital emergency room. Gonesse Hospital has two vehicles operating 24 hours a day covering districts in outer Paris, including sprawling urban areas and small country villages. These are working class districts with different ethnic groups and religions living together and where healthcare usually means the hospital emergency department or dialing “15” for the SAMU emergency paramedics.

The men and women in the SMUR teams go out whenever there is news of a life-threatening situation, such as a road accident, heart attack, respiratory distress or stroke. They have to act quickly, making critical decisions, and they often save lives. But sometimes they are impotent in the face of sudden death. This is their job. They are both dedicated and devoted. They are there, night and day, on the side of the road or in a bedroom.

Grégoire Korganow

J'étais mort, published by le clou dans le fer

Grégoire Korganov

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