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The Transylvania Rescue Team Filiala Ciuc | Going The Extra Mile

Last summer, a group of volunteers went from town to town and village to village to teach the locals what to do in emergencies – including stroke. For those who had donated their free time to this project, the 2022 marathon of the Transylvania Rescue Team Filiala Ciuc held a personal reward.
Angels team 24 March 2023


The marathon began at 3 pm on 29 July, the day after National Ambulance Day in Romania, and lasted into the evening. The starting point, quite appropriately, was Liberty Square in Miercurea Ciuc, the capital of Harghita County.

On Saturday morning 30 July it reached Lunca de Sus just 30 km northeast of the capital, before turning south in the direction of Cozmeni the following day.

On Tuesday 2 August citizens of Odorheiu Secuiesc gathered in St István Hall where the marathon was due at 3 pm. Two days later it reached the Cultural Centre in Cârta, then headed northeast to reach Tomești near the capital, before doubling back to Cristuru Secuiesc.

The participants in this marathon didn’t wear running shoes; there was no competition and therefore no prizes to be won. They were however a team and they had a common goal: to save Romanian lives by educating the residents of the towns and village they visited about first aid, resuscitation and stroke.

The need for basic life support training for ordinary citizens had occupied Dr Péter Szilárd’s mind since 2002 when he became head of Harghita County Ambulance Service.

In 2013 he founded the Transylvania Rescue Team Filiala Ciuc, a group of county ambulance service volunteers and mountain rescue personnel who were prepared to sacrifice their leisure time to help prepare their community for emergencies.


The idea for a marathon that would spread life-saving knowledge about basic life support to dozens of towns and villages first saw the light in 2021, when the lingering effects of the pandemic meant instruction took place out of doors. The 2022 marathon took place in town halls and cultural centres as well as town squares and sports fields, and there was something new on the agenda too. Along with basic life support and how to summon the ambulance service in an emergency, participants learnt how to recognise the signs of stroke.

Stroke is the second leading cause of death in Romania. According to a 2022 paper authored by national stroke and stroke network coordinator Prof Cristina Tiu and published in the European Stroke Journal, the country has one of the highest incidences of stroke and one of the highest stroke mortality rates in Europe.

Better outcomes for stroke patients start with recognising the symptoms of stroke and summoning an ambulance so the patient will reach a stroke-ready hospital in time to benefit from acute stroke treatment.

The Transylvania Rescue Team’s support for the Fast Heroes campaign (through which stroke knowledge is transferred to families and communities by educating elementary school children) meant stroke was already part of the conversation. But stroke education officially became part of the 2022 marathon for a very simple reason:

“With stroke as with resuscitation time is precious,” Dr Szilard says. “It is important to act fast.” And in order to act fast, you have to know exactly what to do.


The marathon crisscrossed Central Romania right up to the end of the summer holiday, eventually reaching the cluster of villages known as Șimonești in southwest Harghita on 27 August. Along the route, close to 1,300 people had received hands-on training in resuscitation and learnt what to do in case of stroke.

Once schools started the volunteers would be back in the field, reaching 17 schools by November. And next summer they will hit the road again, charting a new course through the territory and giving substance to their motto: Together for Harghita County.

There are indeed no trophies in this marathon, but that doesn’t mean there’s no reward. Dr Szilárd explains: “People who work in prehospital care don’t often receive feedback about their patients. And of course there aren’t only positive outcomes.” For emergency personnel battling with mental and emotional exhaustion, volunteering for the Transylvania Rescue Team’s awareness marathon is an opportunity to recharge their batteries.

“It’s a personal reward,” Dr Szilárd says. Seeing people respond with gratitude and enthusiasm, shaing stories and experiencing oneself as having an immediate, positive impact on the community.

That is yet another reason this marathon deserves your applause – it is one in which everyone wins.

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