MAKE WAY, PLEASE! My old article in The Review (Dawn in page magazine)

The wailing sirens of the ambulance always render me uneasy. I glance restlessly out of the window of my car wishing that I had the Alladin’s Genie and could remove all obstacles from the ambulance’s path. “Make way please, for Heaven’s sake, make way!” an inner voice inside me cries out as I make a silent prayer, “Please God, whoever is in this ambulance, take care of him (or her) and let him reach the hospital (or home) before it is too late!

I was not so sensitive to ambulances until a few years ago. Although I felt a curiosity about the person in it and his predicament, the death of my father changed my attitude permanently. Strangely, my experience of the ambulance is not of hope but of despair, a journey not towards life but towards death!

Daddy was suffering from ulcerative colitis since the last couple of decades and finally, one day, after extensive bleeding, he was rushed to the hospital. His doctor was kind but practical, “There is nothing much that can be done any more, so it would be better if you take your father home and make him as comfortable as possible”. That was my first experience of an ambulance. Realizing the hopelessness of his situation (and to save him from undue pain), we brought back our dying Daddy home.

After coming home he slipped into a daze like condition, the tide of life ebbing away from him slowly and silently, while I and my siblings waited in anguish for the end. Then we made a great blunder! In a last ditch attempt to save Daddy’s life, we took him to another hospital, another doctor who advised a battery of tests (which we foolishly thought would help him in someway).     Daddy’s frail body just couldn’t bear this pain and on the very next day, he lay on the hospital bed, a dying man, and all of us watching him helplessly. His blood pressure and heartbeat were sinking and breathing was laborious, but his deep eyes were still full of life as he gazed accusingly at me and my brother. “Why did you do this to me? Didn’t I always tell you that I don’t want to die in a hospital?” the silent question in his eyes tormented us as we stood beside his bed ridden with guilt.

 The doctor who came in to check Daddy declared in a voice devoid of any emotions, “A few minutes, maybe an hour”.  With this heart breaking news he left the room. How could our loving Daddy (the father who had urged, coaxed and bullied us all his life to bring out the best from us) be left to die in such cold hands, the question seemed to torture each one of us as we prayed silently.

Suddenly and miraculously, Daddy’s blood pressure and heart beat started to revive and his breathing eased. My eyes met over my brother’s over the hospital bed and he nodded silently. The decision had been made! We were taking Daddy home to fulfill his wish, to let him die peacefully at home and in his bed.

I will never be able to forget the painful journey back from the hospital. We had no idea whether Daddy would make it or not but we had to try! We owed this to our father. I kept on feeling his heart beat and breathing, wincing at every bump on the road, pleading in my heart to every vehicle on the road to move aside and praying silently, “ Please Allah, spare him some more time, please don’t let him die in this ambulance”.

My brave and strong willed father successfully made the journey home and died the next day, peacefully in his bed, as he had always wished!

Sometimes we have to go through similar circumstances before we understand what other people feel. Without meaning ill, we are simply in such a hurry to reach our destination that we do not stop or make way for an ambulance to pass by speedily. Reaching a meeting on time, being punctual to the dentist and making sure our children are not late for school is definitely important but it is not important when a human life is at stake!

We should be sure to make way for an ambulance because the person within it is not going on a joy ride! He may have had a heart attack, a brain or heart stroke, or may be a victim of a major road accident causing extensive blood loss (or any other medical emergency). Each and every moment maybe precious, either pulling him towards life or pushing him towards death!

Often, we hear stories about people who died simply because they could not reach the hospital on time, or those who were just a few minutes late causing irreparable brain damage and surviving in a vegetative state. In my opinion these saved lives are worse than the lives lost!

I plead to everyone who is on the road to slow down, to make way whenever they hear the wail of the ambulance. A few moments sometimes make a world of difference for the person in it, (whether it is a journey towards life or towards death), and also for those who love him dearly! Please make sure to make way before the wail of the ambulance turns into the wails of an anguished mother, a bereaved wife or shattered children. Today the person in the ambulance may be a stranger to us but tomorrow it could be me, it could be you, or it could be someone very near and dear to our hearts!