Saturday, August 4, 2007

"There were times I couldn't get to patients and they bled to death."

Interview with PMRS ambulance driver
Aug. 4, 2007

Today I got to interview an ambulance driver at PMRS who patiently tried to explain things to me in English. Following is the transcript from the interview.

Q: Can you tell me about your experiences driving the ambulance?

A: There are many problems, many stories. There are many times I go places and I can't get there because of soldiers. Sometimes I have to wait 1, 2, 3 hours at checkpoints. Sometimes I have to stay the whole night at a place when I am trying to transport someone.

Q: Can you tell me a particular story that happened to you?

A: There were times I couldn't get to patients and they bled to death. Like there was a patient at the Tulkarem camp that I was trying to get to; they had been shot in their leg and were bleeding. I couldn't get through to get them and they died. Every day I have a story, every day things happen…

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about why you do this work with all this?

A: We work in ambulances because we want to help. But there are many problems-with your family, in work itself, on the road.

Q: When you say "problems with family", what do you mean?

A: Well, if there is an emergency you can't go home.

Q: Are there any recent stories you can tell me?

A: Last week, I was trying to get through Hawara checkpoint and the total trip took me about 5 to 6 hours. I was at the checkpoint for 2 hours. There was a patient who had just had open heart surgery and he was going to the hospital for a check up. The soldier at the checkpoint said I didn't have the proper license to get through and made us wait in the hot sun. You know, this past week was very hot, and the soldiers made the ambulances stop in the sun; this was very bad for patients.

Another time, I was driving the mobile clinic and I was trying to get through a checkpoint. The soldier said I can't go through. I was arguing with them, and trying to tell them that I had doctors and medicine with me and I needed to pass. I had to get out of the ambulance. The soldier put my arms behind my back and slammed me into the glass on the ambulance. In the end, they would not let us pass through and we had to turn back.

I used to work with the Red Crescent ambulances. One time I was taking a patient from Tulkarem to Nablus for them to get kidney dialysis, because they do not have that equipment in Tulkarem. I left Tulkarem at 7:00 in the morning. It took almost five hours to get to Nablus because of all the checkpoints and tanks.

While I was driving, two tanks stopped my ambulance and blocked me. Two to three soldiers were shooting at the ground and they sky. They told me to get out with my hands up. Then the soldiers strip searched me; they made me take off all my clothes. The soldiers made me stay two hours in the hot sun. They turned off the ambulance, so there was no air conditioning for the patient. I kept begging them to let me go check the patient. Finally, they let me. When I went to check the patient's pulse, I realized that he had died. He was about 40 years old.

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