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Driver slips into coma after stopping vehicle

By Zheng Jinran in Beijing and Zhao Ruixue in Jinan  (China Daily)

09:43, March 13, 2013

Family members watch over Song Yang, a bus driver in Shandong province, in Second Hospital of Shandong University. On Saturday, Song managed to pull over on an expressway before falling into a coma. He is in a critical condition.(Photo/China Daily)

Colleagues and passengers of a bus driver in East China who managed to pull over his vehicle on an expressway before slipping into a coma have flocked to his bedside.

Song Yang is in critical condition at the Second Hospital of Shandong University.

"He's not in good shape," said his physician, Ma Cheng'en, on Tuesday, adding that Song is unable to breathe unaided.

The 34-year-old had been driving a bus carrying 33 passengers from Liaocheng to Jinan on Saturday when he suddenly fell ill at about 10:20 am. Witnesses said he instinctively pulled the vehicle to the side of the road and opened the doors for passengers to evacuate.

In hospital, doctors found a large amount of blood on his brain stem and he was admitted to intensive care.

"I believe my son will protect others even though it will put him in danger," his mother, Song Xia, said on Tuesday.

Many passengers who were on the bus have visited Song in the hospital to express their appreciation.

"The surveillance video shows he was in great pain, but he did his job and made sure everything was safe, which was hard for him," said Jia Xiangming, an instructor who worked with Song. He said the company has donated more than 34,400 yuan ($5,530) to help the family after the company covered the cost of his treatment.

The incident was the third case of a bus driver falling ill behind the wheel in China in three days. Doctors say the incidents demonstrate that the health of drivers needs more attention.

"Drivers work with continuous and intense stress for a long time, about eight hours a day. In addition to their unfavorable working environment, chaos from the crowds and high or low temperatures in the vehicles, you can see the reason why their health is not OK," said Liu Yahua, an emergency room doctor at the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces in Beijing.

Many of them are unable to keep regular eating and exercise patterns because of their busy schedule, which may become worse because of the traffic jams, she said.

"For people in their 40s and 50s, this may lead to serious diseases involving their stomach, heart and spine, which is quite common among the drivers," she said, adding that some may not take medicines regularly during work.

She suggested drivers pay more attention to daily healthcare. Many bus companies share her opinion on regular care.

Peng Zilin, a publicity official from the first branch company of Beijing Public Transport Holdings Ltd said all the drivers of the company have regular physical examinations and daily checks from their team leader to confirm that they are in good health.

"We do everything to make sure our drivers can work healthily and the passengers are safe," he said, adding that their priority is to put on the brakes when such instances occur, but no such incident has happened in his company.

Many people have suggested that the drivers should benefit from early retirement considering their exhausting daily work.

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