Confessions of an Ambulance Driver

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“There have been deaths in my ambulance, but also births. At the set-up I work for, more than 13,000 babies were born in a vehicle”

In an ambulance, much depends on the pilot, as the driver is called. We have pre-fixed parking points but we also have to know the roads, traffic patterns, the nearest trauma care centres and hospitals. Things never go according to plan. Patients or their relatives insist on being taken to a particular hospital. Sometimes, paramedics change the course midway, especially in cases related to head injuries. The police, too, dictate what we do. As a pilot, I cannot act independently even if I know it’s the best option.

The average traffic in urban areas moves at 8-12 km per hour and no one gives way to us despite the blaring siren. Considering the golden period for an accident victim is the first one hour, it’s touch and go for many patients I transport.

While there have been deaths in my ambulance there have also been births. At the ambulance set-up I work for, more than 13,000 babies were born in a vehicle. Of the nearly 2 million emergencies we attended, 40 per cent were pregnancy-related, especially in rural areas. In urban areas, it is mostly road accident and heart attack cases.

We work 12-hour days with extreme stress and low pay. We are entitled to an off after every three working days, but it never happens. On an average, we respond to eight cases per day. Though we are expected to save lives, we do not enjoy privileges like medical insurance. 

I have shifted victims of gunshot and knife wounds, snake poisoning and suicide attempts. I remember an industrial accident where a man lost his hand and his colleagues packed it in ice and handed it over to me. Self-immolation and fire accident victims are the most horrific. The smell of burnt flesh remains in the ambulance for days.

There was one ambulance driver who used his siren to meet his girlfriend every day. He got caught because he passed a senior police officer’s residence every morning around the same time.

(He has been an ambulance driver in Bangalore for seven years) 

As told to Anil Budur Lulla