Behind the wheel: Woman ambulance driver Birgül Kuyucuoğlu

Birgül Kuyucuoğlu is an ambulance driving, which is usually a profession of men; despite all the difficulties such as night shifts and insomnia, she now races time to save lives.

In spite of the objections of her father, a retired fireman, Kuyucuoğlu has been working as a paramedic driver for the past three years and loves her job.

While those who see a female driver in the ambulance driver's seat are shocked, Kuyucuoğlu and her team's only aim is to reach an address and save lives.

Sometimes the ambulance team must deal with reactions from patients' relatives; thus, they try to act with the police for security concerns.

'Father opposed'

Anadolu Agency (AA) accompanied Kuyucuoğlu on her night shift. While they sped along the road, the other team in the ambulance tried to get information on the status of the patient. The team, which is constantly in contact with the center, goes to the scene, asking detailed questions concerning the patient's situation and the address.

The first job of the Kücükoğlu and the health team is to intervene rapidly with the patient and bring him or her to the nearest health facility.

As a paramedic driver for three years at Kartal No. 1 Emergency Assistance Station at the Istanbul Health Directorate Provincial Ambulance Chief Physician's Office, 23-year-old Kuyucuoğlu said her father taught her to drive in areas closed to traffic at an early age.

Noting her childhood dream of driving an ambulance, she said: "I used to enjoy it, and my dad was proud of it. I started driving better in time and got my license. Then, I started driving actively. I learned how to tackle traffic when I moved to Istanbul. Soon I started working at 112. I have been working as a paramedic since then. I am the only female healthcare driver at 112 in Istanbul. It makes me so proud."

His father, who is a retired firefighter, did not want her to choose this profession. "He used to say, 'There is no day and night to it. How can you drive on the road, on your own, in places you do not know;' he was opposed to it," Kuyucuoğlu noted.

When there are no cases, they rest at Kartal No. 1 Emergency Help Station, which has become their second home, and Kuyucuoğlu added that teams have to exit in 90 seconds whenever a new case is reported by radio or phone.

Problems at night

Birgül Kuyucuoğlu said that it is very difficult to work at night and added:

"It is okay during the day, but we do run into problems at night. We receive help from public security teams. We seriously strive to make people leave. We sometimes become afraid of relatives of patients and sometimes face violence from them. Even if we arrive in seven or eight minutes, relatives of patients swear at us, walk up to us saying, 'You didn't arrived in half an hour.' Yet, we again try to help them despite this reaction. Our only aim is to reach the patient. We can serve better if relatives lead us. Since I'm a driver, sometimes we can work as three women. It is very hard for us to carry a 120-130 kilogram patient. When we ask for help from relatives of patients, they sometimes say, 'Did you come as three women? Isn't there someone else to drive the car? Which one of you is the doctor and which one of you is the driver'?"

She added that those who see a female driver are surprised so they try to overtake her, passing in front or back of the vehicle. "A female driver drives a big car, and this is an ambulance. They are scared and do not know where to escape. Our real aim is to save lives. These kinds of people put our lives and the lives of the patient in danger. A wrong move from other cars may cause us to have an accident."

She said despite the rough conditions, she was glad to work in this profession. "You got to a street, a building and a house you don't know. The place you are going is not just materially and physically but really dark. You do not know what you will encounter. Whether someone will greet you with a knife, walk on you, swear or act nice. We try to be careful. We usually work with public order teams," the ambulance driver continued.

Kuyucuoğlu complains about patients who are not really in critical condition but call ambulances.

She noted that people who have appointments call 112 and describe symptoms such as "I cannot feel my left arm et cetera." When they arrive at the scene, they realize that the patients do not have any of these signs. "They have made appointments and call us. While I lose time there, someone else might be dying somewhere. And we cannot help them. This can be anyone's mother, father, child or sister," Kuyucuoğlu added.

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