They race against time driving through jam-packed city roads with sirens on and beacons flashing. Speed barriers and traffic rules hardly matter since they are on a noble mission to hand over critically ill patients and accident victims to the safe hands of doctors.
The job of an ambulance driver is tough not just going by the nature of work but also because of the mental agony.
“The moment we receive a phone call alerting us to the need to shift a person who have suffered a massive heart attack or an accident victim to hospital, we are behind the wheel. I would have eagerly waited for the call, but the moment I take control of the vehicle the monetary part fades away. Then nothing else matters. I will stretch the vehicle to the extreme so that I reach the hospital as fast as possible,” says Prem Kumar, an ambulance driver with experience of more than 15 years.
Mr. Kumar, who operates from the Government Medical College Hospital, says the most disappointing part of the job is that despite the best efforts driving the vehicle at breakneck speeds flouting all rules, the life of some patients cannot be saved.
He recalls that a few years ago, he took an accident victim from a private hospital here to a specialist hospital at Palarivattom in Ernakulum in two-and-a-half hours.
“Her hand was chopped from the shoulder. She was rushed to the hospital for an urgent micro-vascular surgery for stitching the hand back. But my efforts went in vain as she breathed her last after reaching the hospital. Every driver could have faced similar situations,” he says.
It is not like any other job where you work within a particular timeframe, G. Mariappan, another driver with a private ambulance service agency at Pattom, says.
“On certain days, there will not be any breathing space at all. Calls will come one after the other. Both mentally and physically, you would be exhausted and worn out. But once you take charge, you should be fit enough to take the responsibility as any diversion would endanger the lives of the patient and others on the road,” he says.
The roads pose several challenges. Besides the growing traffic snarls and sudden diversions due to protests, two-wheeler riders and car drivers cause hindrance, G. Babu, a driver, says. “They don’t often make way for ambulances. It is not deliberate because the two-wheeler riders could not hear the siren as they wear helmets. And car drivers roll up their windows,” he says.