On alternate days, over a 24-hour stretch, Syed Nemath Hussaini is at the wheel of an ambulance outside Care Hospital in Hyderabad’s upscale Banjara Hills. He is one of the drivers of the Corona Specials that city-based ambulance service provider StanPlus launched to meet the medical emergencies after the lockdown. “The coronavirus is a threat to the entire world, and I am doing my bit,” says Hussaini, who volunteered for the 24-hour shift. He brushes aside arguments of friends and fellow drivers about it being a risky job. “Call him God or by any other name, it is he who protects and decides what happens to each of us,” emphasises Hussaini, a tenth class passout from the St Aristotle High School at Hafeez Baba Nagar in the city’s old quarter.
The endless wait on some days does not worry Hussaini. Only the time lost donning the PPE suit before driving to the hotspot and moving the COVID-19-positive patient or suspect to the dedicated facilities. The city has been trying to reduce the response time to emergency calls to 15 minutes, which is why the ambulances are parked at strategic locations. Still, with vehicular traffic on the roads at a minimum, the hospital rides are speedier than ever.
“All the 12 confirmed positive patients I moved to Gandhi Hospital looked more worried than any other sick people I have taken. There is a deep fear that the coronavirus will lead to an early death,” he says. His job includes helping move the patient into the ambulance. Paramedics provide the onboard care inside. Hussaini also has to ensure that the van is sanitised daily and fumigated once a week.
“Why do these patients worry so much?” wonders Hussaini, pointing out that he grew up as an orphan. He has never seen his father, and he lost his mother while he was in Class eight. A friend’s family paid for his upkeep till he passed out of school. Odd jobs as a refrigerator mechanic and electrician kept him going for some years. He was also an Ola driver for a while. “None of that was as satisfying as what I do now. This work helps me earn and be of service to others. It makes me truly rich,” he says, as he starts his motorcycle to go home after a long shift.