- Srinivas works for 12 hours every day from 8AM to 8PM
- He ferries at least 4-5 COVID-19 patients per day
- Srinivas disinfects his ambulance every time after dropping a patient
New Delhi: Every day since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Hyderabad, Srinivas Reddy, a 42-year-old who works as a driver with 108 ambulance service in Hyderabad has been working on the frontline, picking up the COVID-19 infected patients from their homes or quarantine centres and dropping them off to a government hospital or back to their homes after treatment. For him and his fellow ambulance drivers, this is the first time they are witnessing such a crisis situation which demands them to protect themselves, on one hand, and on the other hand, be ready all the time to protect others. After almost five months of COVID-19 duty, Srinivas started experiencing the symptoms of the disease himself and on July 29, he tested positive. By August 8 he tested negative. However, not even a week was completed of his recovery when Srinivas responded to the call of duty, and resumed ferrying patients to and from government hospitals from August 12.
While speaking with NDTV about his experience of contracting COVID-19, treatment and post-recovery period, Srinivas said that once he was tested positive, he opted for home treatment instead of getting admitted to a hospital. He said,
Thankfully, my symptoms were mild. I had a fever and cough. I thought it might be the cold but when I got to know that one of my colleagues with whom I spent some time while having lunch has been infected with the virus, I got myself tested too. I found out that I was positive too. I decided to go for home treatment because I was already living in a separate area of my home that has an attached bathroom, away from my wife and 16-year-old son. I am glad to say that the treatment I received worked well. The medical team checked on me at least once every day. I started feeling better soon and almost 10 days later, I tested negative. During the treatment, management authorities of 108 ambulance service provided me with a home quarantine kit worth Rs.4,000 that comprised immunity booster food like honey, fruits, medicines and other necessary supplies. It was a very nice gesture from them.
Srinivas’s day starts at 8 AM waiting for a call from the health department for COVID-19 duty. He usually picks 4-5 patients per day and so far in the last seven months, he has transported over 500 COVID-19 patients.
It is always heart-wrenching to see COVID-19 positive patients crying in the ambulance. I feel helpless but I try to persuade them to have a positive outlook. Now, I even give them my example and tell them how I defeated the virus, he said.
He also shared that as lockdown is easing up, sometimes, the city’s traffic stresses him out. He said,
During the lockdown, it was much easier to drive the patients. Now, however, it becomes stressful to take patients to the hospital in few minutes because of the traffic.
According to him, for the protection of the patients, ambulance technician and he follow the protocol on duty and change the full set of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and fumigate the ambulance with disinfectant each time after dropping a patient.
Back at home, for Srinivas, the safety of his family has been a priority and despite the mental stress that he faces and the longing he feels to be near them, he keeps himself in self-quarantine at home. He said,
My job involves high risks. Even though I take extreme cautions, I am always scared for the health of my family. Therefore, I remove my PPE outside the house, bathe myself and wash clothes in hot water before entering the house. After coming home, I keep myself to just one room even though I terribly miss spending time with them.
While talking about the stigma attached to their duty of ferrying the COVID-19 patients, Srinivas said that there have been instances where he had faced unwelcoming gazes of the people whenever he received a patient. He added,
Apart from bearing all the risks involved in our job, ambulance workers also face the stigma attached to our work. Some of my colleagues and their family members have even faced uncomfortable situations like being called names and treated as ‘untouchables’ BY residents in the area and among relatives. It feels like people are afraid of us.
Srinivas is now undergoing tests for antibodies as he has decided to donate his plasma.
We are all working on a war footing against this deadly virus. Each one of us must do whatever is possible. I am waiting for a call from the plasma bank and then I will donate my plasma if I clear all the required conditions. My plasma will be able to save two COVID-19 patients. It will be a matter of pride for me, he said
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.