Awkward Yet Gentle Dance
I stopped the car, hopped out and headed to the entrance of the store. My gaze panned upward from the asphalt to an unusual movement occurrence 30 yds. In front of me. There I saw an older man and woman doing an awkward yet gentle dance, just inside the entrance of the store; a dance where the lady and the gentleman shuffle a few steps and then the man outstretches his arms and lovingly lowers her backwards towards the carpeted ground. This all happened in a matter of seconds; once they got past 45 degrees, my brain got sucked through the worm hole and landed in reality. She was falling. Quickened to life, I reached for my phone, in my purse and dialed 911. Running now toward the couple, to ask if she was okay. Another lady who was closer was there, now kneeling on the ground attending to the older woman and trying to dial for help at the same time. Her daughter? This lady seemed proprietary and in shock; somehow, she was unaware that I was already speaking with the 911 operator. She struggled to find a way to negotiate between the two functions, attending and calling. I gave a quick smile and motioned to her to hang up and attend to her mother instead. When I looked down at the fallen lady, her eyes were closed. Her lids were naturally pale matte white, as if it were her chosen color of eye shadow. Her un-leathered flawless skin was warm, flat, butterscotch-yellow, like a fine flaxened suede. There was a third lady there now and the two were discussing CPR. I had taken CPR, but it had been years ago. Just two weeks prior to this, a friend of mine was headed to a CPR class and I was thinking about how useful this knowledge can be. The third lady said she had been certified back in her country, the DR; there, years ago, she had been an RN.
There's a Lady who has fallen
“Depending on what is wrong with her you could kill her”, I could hear as the operator was asking me my location. I repeated the name of the store and nervously jogged through the store to the registers to ask a cashier for the address. I’m so horrible with addresses, despite the fact that I had worked in the same complex before, I could not think of the street I was on (In my defense - I never dealt with mail of any kind). Word must have reached the register, as well and it had set the front of the store in a minor panic and thinking irrationally. Visibly already engaged in a conversation, I asked a cashier for the store address; she motioned me to quiet down, she blurted out that she was trying to call 911. I whispered, “I’m on the line with them already. Tuned-out. “Hello, there’s a lady who has fallen in…”, was the response directed into the phone. It was great that we were all concerned, but the inefficiency was frustrating and disconcerting. I left the register and the 911 Operator, told me not to worry he already dispatched, he had the address.
She was Diabetic
Back at the entrance, gazing down where the group of responding onlookers gathered, revealed the old lady was conscious now. Luckily, this ended the argument that had ensued regarding CPR. The Operator, said, “Okay well they will be there in a moment, I will hang up now.” A new argument had surfaced, "Should we give her something sweet to eat?" Since she was conscious and therefore not at the same level of crisis and the EMT were not miles from help, they were on their way in minutes, I was of the ilk to make her comfortable and wait. I tried to interject, “There are so many reasons why, someone could have fainted and giving her something sweet to eat, could make her choke or go into shock. They added she was hot and clammy, “feel her hands”. While I was gone, apparently the old lady had told them that she was diabetic. She had a high sugar count, in the morning and then took her medication. She had not eaten lunch either. It was 2 pm. I spoke with her and let her know that I was unzipping her fleece jacket, so that she could cool off a little. I imagined that even though she was probably relieved to have the jacket removed, it had always made me more relaxed to have anyone helping me in such a situation explain to me what they were doing, so I didn't feel helpless. I had asked a clerk for paper towels with cool water on it and a straw with a cup of water. I told the old lady, that I was placing the paper towels under her chin on her neck. She let me know that she had a bump on her head, but was okay.
where the emergency was at
The “daughter” and RN were hell-bent on giving the old lady Coke. As they argued about the amount of sips with a straw vs. a capful of Coke she should have, the wall of chatter faded into white noise, as I noticed something over to the side of the commotion. I wasn’t concerned about the old lady, since it was only a matter of minutes before the EMT would be there and hopefully could counteract whatever damage the First Responding Onlookers Crew was insistent on administering. What had happened to her lovely "dancing partner"? We all forgot about him. What I saw over to the side, now had my full attention; it was her lovely man of a husband hanging back quietly behind everyone. Peering on. This was where the emergency was at. His wife would be fine; he was in shock. This store was in a somewhat conservative, predominately white area. I imagined that the older people in this town had probably not chosen much personal interaction with “others”. I had a moment of reservation about my next step, out of not wanting to scare the poor man, but I quickly realized that he was unaware of color and was already scared. He was scared that his life partner was going to die. Fear is so universal.
I leaned in and placed my arm around his the shoulders of his dark green bomber jacket. This guy had style. The "daughter" had asked him if the old lady had any other health issues. He said, I’m the one with the health issues, but right now, if you ask me anything, I will probably forget. I have damage to my brain from an accident.” Everyone turned back around to continue attending to the old lady. I gave him a squeeze and said, "stuff happens". Arm still around him, I turned toward him and said, "I saw you when she was fainting and you were amazing. You kept her from really getting hurt.” I asked him if there was anyone we could call. Did he perhaps have a paper with some important names and medications on it? He said, "Maybe she does in her purse". His voice trembled, as if he were thinking. It seemed like perhaps there had been some recent discussion with a family member regarding them not living on their own. He added, “We live alone, it is just her and me.”
Then I tried to bring her and him in together by speech, because he needed to connect with her a little bit. Smiling, I said, “Ma’am? Is this your husband?” She muttered yes. I said, “Man are you lucky to have him! This guy must love you something amazing. I saw how he was with you when you were falling and the gentleness with which he held you and he protected you. You are lucky to have him!” She nodded. I stroked his back, as he asked me if he was going to be able to go along with her. I said absolutely (because if for some reason they didn’t let him, I would have taken him!). I asked for his name, he said Walter.
As the EMT and police arrived I introduced Walter to them, as her husband. “He would like to be able to stay with his wife, will that be possible?” They nodded yes. Then I added, “He has had some brain damage from an accident a while ago and these two are a tight pair. Can you please make certain he is okay?” They smiled and said, "yes". I’m not a fan, but I grabbed the Coke and said this is Walters, since who knows how long he would be stuck at the hospital. When I turned around, back to the entrance of the store the onlooker group had dispersed. I guess that was not their daughter after all.
Wow, I really have to remember how powerful relationships are. This reminded me that we need to not forget family. These kind of occurrences can be traumatic. Walter had shut off and moved to a corner and was not a part of what was happening at all; life was just happening to him. I was so thankful, that I happened to decided to stop at that store and was able to help. I think bringing Walter back in to the problem, yet still protecting him a bit, by staying by his side and comforting him, helped him to feel more present and gave him more power in the situation. The experience left me with a few thoughts as well. I realized how important being educated in emergency assistance is for all. Everyone should have this. It is frightening that we are really at the whim of where (meaning with whom and in what environment) we take ill. Information about your ailments on a necklace/bracelet or on you (wallet/purse) is key. A bright index card, that catches attention, with emergency contact information and the same medical information on it is probably a good idea. I have needed this recently just because I was stranded and my phone ran out of battery (I don't have numbers memorized anymore!). What if your phone is out of battery or was smashed. Perhaps it is a good idea to even alert the emergency contact and give them a card with your medical info on it too, in case you do not have yours with you. I only takes a few minutes out of your day and could save your life.