“Every day is an adventure”
Patient transport service driver, Dave Martin, on the connections he forms with people travelling for AMD appointments and cataract surgery
13 February 2022
I started as a driver for SpaMedica’s patient transport service in November 2019. Before that I worked for Lancashire Social Services for 15 years. In my job, I pick people up and drive them to the hospital so they are able to attend their eye appointments. I can drive up to 500 miles a day but most days, I would be looking at something around 150 to 200 miles. I cover the entire North West, usually within Lancashire but also Cumbria, the Lake District, or even further up to Carlisle and Penrith. I will cover the Manchester area and Merseyside as well.
I love driving – I could drive all day long. I just keep going until my Sat Nav says ‘You have arrived at home.’ I don’t feel tied down or confined – even though I am in my van, you are out in the world and free. It’s very rare that I go to the same place twice. Every day is an adventure.
I was furloughed for a while – I would have much rather been at work. I would look out my window and see my van on my drive and wish that I could be back out driving again.
The transport service takes a weight off people’s minds because they don’t need to worry about the expense of a taxi or worrying a relative. Some people are on their own and don’t have someone they could ask for a lift. It takes all that worry away.
The best part of the job is meeting people. They all have stories to tell. The other day I picked some people up from Liverpool and took them to a hospital in Manchester because they had to see a specialist. When I was taking them back home to Liverpool, a gentleman pointed out a house on the corner. He said ‘You see that house, the second one past the traffic lights with all the lights on, that is where Wayne Rooney grew up.’
One patient who I drove to hospital for cataract surgery was an artist. She would do landscape painting and pet portraits but she had to stop because she couldn’t see the colours properly. She was looking forward to being able to pick up her brush again
I took one patient from Lancaster to a hospital in Preston. She said ‘We’re not going on the motorway are we? I hate driving on the motorway because I get really anxious.’ I said ‘That’s alright we will go down the A6.’ We passed through some nice villages and it only took about ten minutes longer.
I’ve got to know some people quite well. I talked with one lady about what we were having for tea one day and now every time I go to pick her up she has a recipe for me. She says ‘I think you might like this.’ Especially with coronavirus and people being on the vulnerable list and having to stay in, I think people are glad to get out and about again these days. It is nice to chat.
One patient who I drove to hospital for cataract surgery was an artist. She would do landscape painting and pet portraits but she had to stop because she couldn’t see the colours properly. She was looking forward to being able to pick up her brush again. It’s not like I am a surgeon, but knowing that I have played a small part in helping someone to be able to resume something that they have loved all their life makes me feel really warm inside. I feel privileged and lucky to be doing what I am doing.
Dave Martin, from St Annes in Lancashire, is a driver for SpaMedica’s patient transport service. A fleet of 40 mini buses transport around 1000 patients to age-related macular degeneration and cataract appointments each month.
• As told to Selina Powell.