The Second Wave: An Ambulance Driver Who Is On Duty 24×7 Says “Every Day Is Filled With A Lot of Grief”
Mohd. Mazarul, a 25-year-old ambulance driver with a private start-up in Mumbai, shares what his day looks like on the frontlines of the pandemic. This is the third installment of a series that looks at the toll of a worsening Covid19 crisis from multiple perspectives within the healthcare system.
I live in Navi Mumbai with my mother and father, but originally, I am from West Bengal. As an ambulance driver, I cover all Navi Mumbai and Mumbai and have experience of four years in total. Before this, I worked with another private agency.
A lot has happened during Covid19. This is a 24×7 job. Whenever we get a gap, we catch up on sleep and food. In a day, we get at least seven to eight patients, and even more. It’s hard to keep track most days. I really like doing this work because it helps a lot of people — I realize that, and it’s evident on people’s faces. It is heart-touching, very touching to look at people and see their expressions as we meet them. The reality of all of this, it makes it worthwhile.
This has been going on relentlessly for the last one year. We take people from homes to hospitals. Sometimes, there are a series of emergency calls; someone has a heart attack or other disease, other Covid19-positive patients call us too. We have to be alert at all times; we try to reach their homes within 15 minutes of the call.
These days, it is mostly Covid19 patients that we have to pick up because of the rising cases. Hospitals are in a bad condition; there is no oxygen supply in most places even for ambulances. Yesterday, I went to get oxygen supply filled for my ambulance, and they said there is no quantity available for us. There is a grave oxygen shortage, and patients are also increasing, which is scary.
There have been a lot of times when we take a patient to hospital but are redirected to some other place because of a shortage of beds. Just yesterday, we had a patient on oxygen support in the ambulance, and the hospital did not have an ICU bed, so we had to go to another hospital. But there was no admission in that hospital because it was full for Covid patients. We took them to another hospital — it took three hours to get a bed and other supplies, and then we got the patient admitted.
There is also a shortage of injection — a patient called me the other day to check if we know where a certain injection could be procured from. All this shortage is extremely hard to see — why is this happening to people? The way people are lying down in hospitals, it is very hard to see, day after day, and even harder to explain it. Ambulances standing in front of a hospital full of dead bodies, of course, it is heartbreaking to see it every day. Why don’t I have something that patients need? I try to help as much as I can.
A good day I remember was when a small kid had fallen from the first floor. We reached on time, and the doctor later said that we reached right on time. The father and mother gave a lot of respect and looked very kindly — that reality, it felt very nice. It is hard to recall only one bad day — almost every day is filled with a lot of grief. People are having to bear a lot of pain and struggles in hospitals or otherwise, without facilities.
I am scared of getting Covid19 from a patient, but more than fear, I want to help — so I try not to think about it. Last year, everyone was equally scared and uncertain, and no one was able to understand it. Now that people know it, the cases are still rising. So, in one way or the other, everyone needs to understand the urgency and think before going out or doing anything else. There are a lot of rules, and I see people breaking them and not heeding to them. Some say ‘there is no Covid’ or ‘there is no need to be worried’; this is very saddening for me to see. Only a patient who is going through it will tell you the toll Covid takes and the urgency to take every precaution and abide by the laws.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Saumya Kalia.