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Racing with the hope of life along city streets
Update: 9/9/2007 2:49:00 AM Source: Wentrip
"An elderly man has fainted in the Shanghai Botanic Garden on Longwu Road."

It is 9:35am and the Shanghai Medical Emergency Center in Yishan Road receives an emergency call.

Like soldiers racing across a battlefield, the team - a doctor, a driver and a stretcher bearer - runs to the ambulance which speeds onto the road, siren blaring.

Twelve minutes later the ambulance is being led through the gardens by the garden's tourist car. Dr Liu Tao has made sure his equipment is ready during the seven-kilometer journey.

The second the ambulance pulls up the team jumps out and the doctor runs toward the victim, an elderly man sitting on a bench and surrounded now by a crowd of onlookers.

One of the crowd tells the doctor that the man came to the park by himself, fainted and fell on the ground a few minutes beforehand. He has now regained consciousness.

Dr Liu first checks the man's head and urges him to stay still and quiet as he asks him about his health and whether or not he has pain anywhere in his body.

Dr Liu decides that the man must be taken to hospital immediately and with the driver and his assistant they put the man onto a stretcher and into the ambulance.

As the ambulance begins driving out of the gardens 10 minutes later, some of the crowd wave and smile. Inside Dr Liu is checking the man's heartbeat, blood pressure and administering a saline drip.

The ambulance is racing through the crowded streets again, siren sounding, heading this time to the nearest hospital.

Dr Liu continues examining the patient asking him his medical history. The man is weak and can only manage mono-syllabic answers.

After a few minutes Dr Liu relaxes. While his patient is now stable, heartbeat, blood pressure and respiration in order, the doctor himself is feeling the heat and wipes his face which is now covered in perspiration.
A few minutes later the ambulance reaches the Shanghai No. 8 People's Hospital. The driver, Liu and the stretch-bearer carry the elderly man into the emergency room and the hospital doctors take over.

"I am confident that the patient will be fine," Dr Liu says. "My biggest sense of achievement is when a patient recovers after I treat him or her."

The 32-year-old doctor has worked on ambulances for the past 10 years after graduating from a local medical school. It's a job with enormous pressures.

"Time means life. An emergency doctor in an ambulance has to make the diagnosis in a very short time and all by himself. Good judgment and quick reflexes are very important," he said. "The job is physically demanding and challenging."

It is the third emergency case for the doctor today. He usually deals with more than 10 cases over 12 hours.

As a first-aid doctor, Liu works continuously for 12 hours every day he is on duty.

"Our work doesn't have a regular schedule as it depends entirely on emergencies," the doctor said.

"We don't have time to sit down to enjoy a peaceful meal. Lunch is always interrupted three or four times as we have to run out whenever a call comes in. Most ambulance doctors have stomach ache and some even suffer anxiety attacks and have nervous breakdowns.

"The pressure makes me nervous all the time. I even sometimes mistake my home telephone's ring for the ambulance's alarm and often dream I hear the siren when I am fast asleep," he said.

In addition to the immense pressures of life and death working, ambulance doctors also have other burdens - families of patients often vent their anger on the doctors.

"They blame us for arriving late and accuse us of ignoring the patient's life," Liu said. "We understand their worry and the anxiety they experience waiting for an ambulance. We try our best to get to the patient as soon as possible."

Editor: canton my

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