“I have been an ambulance driver for the past 12 years. I started out by running a mobile freezer business. Today I am the State ambulance co-ordinator of Active Network Group of Emergency Life Savers (ANGELS) and Dr. P.P. Venugopal, the executive director of ANGELS, has been a guidance all along.
Yes, ambulance driving has its risks. Contrary to what most people think, speed is not the key for an ambulance driver. It is not speed that saves a patient but the care he/she gets in the ambulance. Everything matters in the process, especially the way in which an accident victim is carried from the road and placed into the vehicle. The purpose of an ambulance driver is to save a life and not in the process jeopardise the lives on the road. So ANGELS drivers like me are instructed not to speed beyond 60 km/hour. The driver has to always remain calm and when one drives fast blood pressure too shoots up.
The job sure has its challenges. We cater to emergencies, mostly accidents. It is tough when we are called at night. The caller often passes on rough information about the place of accident and moves on. It is left to us to locate the victim and at night there would hardly be any help around.
There are times when our effort would be wasted. After getting a call, we would rush to the spot only to find that the victim has been taken in an autorickshaw. Travelling in an autorickshaw can cause more harm to a patient who has suffered spine injuries.
Every ANGELS driver is given a one-day training before he becomes part of the initiative. Apart from that, we also have an emergency medical care technician course. We are taught, among other things, how to shift a patient onto the spine board and how to remove the helmet in case the victim is a two-wheeler rider.
If any driver wants to be part of ANGELS, three things are mandatory— training, constant oxygen supply and GPS in the vehicle. Now we have 55 ambulances and 80 drivers working in Kozhikode.
Though I tend to see accidents and trauma on a daily basis, some scenes break my heart too. They mostly deal with situations that involve children especially if they have lost their parents in the accident. But I brace myself and go on. In these years I have realised that most accidents are a result of carelessness, especially when it involves a two-wheeler.
Over the years, the number of accidents too has gone up. However, cases of patient death on the way to the hospital are not many. I am also called in when there is an emergency at home too. I also reach old-age homes and ferry senior citizens to the hospital. Often, I too have to pitch in, carrying them or cleaning up after them. I just imagine they are my own father and mother, do the work and take them to the hospital.
For our services, I am paid Rs. 23 for every kilometer I drive. I stay at Chelannur with my wife and two kids. They are very supportive and they know well that my job is such that I will be called in at any time, night or day.
Apart from being an ambulance driver, I also continue my mobile freezer services.”
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)