Tuesday, March 17, 2015

That's Okay. I'm Used To It; This Happens To Men Around Me Every So Often.

After the requisite Luxuriation Period In My Jammies this morning, it was finally time to face the Grocery Shopping. Luckily, only a few items were on the list, and it was really only a trip to get Cat Supplies at the pet store that was forcing me outside today. I stopped there first, then continued to my grocery store, noting with great satisfaction the number of empty parking spaces. This was going to be a quick trip, thank goodness.

I zipped in, grabbed a cart, and was immediately thwarted. An elderly gentleman was intently browsing the baked goods right next to the carts. He sidled up even closer to them, then began to bend low. I had nowhere to go; his cart was blocking the aisle, and he had one hand resting on it. I waited, trying to be patient, and he bent lower still, aiming toward the bottom shelf. Suddenly, he simply fell, prone and on his face, his legs completely stretched out towards me, cart veering off ahead. He was motionless. I bent down, and as I did, I yelled, "Call 911! An elderly man just collapsed. Hurry!" I tried to feel if he was breathing by holding my hand near his nose and mouth, and I was afraid to move him. I could feel warm breath, steady and definite. "Sir. Sir. Can you hear me? Sir, can you hear me?"

Another person knelt next to me. "We have to get him turned over," she said. I looked at her; she looked somehow familiar. She had black hair piled up on her head and large, dark eyes. She was about my age and height, and she was calm and capable-sounding. "Yes," I said. "Ready when you are." Carefully and gently we turned the man over. He was awake and blinking.

The young man from the Customer Service Desk rushed over and got behind his head. "Run to Closeouts and get him a pillow!" he yelled to a nearby employee. In the meantime, he sat with one leg askew so that his thigh cradled the man's head, slightly propped. "You're gonna be okay, buddy," he said in his heavy West Virginian accent. "The paramedics are on their way."

"Sir, what's your name?" I asked him gently. His blue eyes blinked and he focused on my face. "Silas Bell," he answered. "I'm fine. That cold air just knocked the wind outa me."

We all asked him if there was anyone with him. No, there wasn't. There was no one to call, either, according to Silas Bell. He was shopping alone today, as always. He had a daughter, but she lived far away.

"Sir, do you have a pacemaker?" the black-haired woman asked. He told her no. "Are you a heart patient?" Silas Bell had had a bypass in 2006. He struggled to sit up. "I'm fine. This happens to me all the time at home, and it happens to me here, too. I usually find a place to sit down until it passes. But this time, there was no place to sit."

"Please," I said, "please lie back and try to relax a little. You have a bump on your head and nose from when you fell. Let the medics check you out just to make sure that you don't have a concussion or anything. You fell pretty hard, and right flat on your face."

"Mr. Bell," said the black-haired woman, "does someone have your power of attorney? Are you sure there isn't someone we should call for you?"

"My girlfriend, Ruth Winters, has my power of attorney. No need to call her. I'm fine. I just want to get my groceries and go home."

As we waited for the ambulance to come, we all talked to Mr. Bell to keep him calm and relaxed while shoppers came in and saw him lying there. We found out he was 86 years old and that the black-haired woman was a career nurse. He was alert and aware, and he wanted to get his shopping done.

To my amazement, the paramedics walked in without a single piece of equipment. Neither did they take a single vital sign or attempt to ascertain much information about him with regard to his health history. They heard what happened, asked if he wanted to go to the hospital, and when he said no, they filled out a form and he signed it. That was it. As I pushed my cart away, I felt uneasy and upset.

This man was alone, had just had a fall involving his head, is 86 years old, and then was going to drive a car. None of that scenario merited at least taking vital signs? Asking about medications, diabetes, blood pressure issues, anything? Why did they come into the store with nothing at all? Wouldn't that have cost them precious time if the victim were bleeding, unconscious, having trouble breathing, possibly in other trouble?

As I walked away, I wondered if I should have offered to accompany Mr. Bell as he shopped, just until he was sure he felt better. But I know he would have refused. After all, the paramedics had signed off on him, giving him the reassurance that he was perfectly fine. Perhaps he was. But I still feel unsettled.

Faithful Readers may be experiencing a bit of déjà vu while reading this story. You and me both. While I am always glad to be of help (obviously), I'd rather not have to be The One in such cases. I will say, however, that I suppose I'd better hone my CPR skills. The men are getting older.



  1. I am astounded that the paramedics did not take any vital signs or rush in with equipment, either. Seems like they were mostly concerned with liability. How sad. Makes you wonder if, as we get older, we should not carry around a statement of our legal information--- ya know, just in case somebody wants to know if we have insurance before we kick the bucket. My mother’s aunt (who was diabetic) died while they waited to do the paperwork on her in the hospital. Really. Just thanking my lucky stars that when my face was smashed into a million pieces in a car accident in Madrid, they rushed me into surgery where several plastic surgeons on duty spent five hours and 150 tiny little stitches putting Humpty Dumpty's face together again. For free. (They did actually ask for my passport when I entered the ER, but that took a few seconds and it was just to see what I looked like so they could put me back together the way I was before, more or less.)

    1. Ortizzle--Good heavens! My life continues to be One Continually Tepid Saga whilst yours is a Dizzying And Breathless Adventure On Several Continents! Unfortunately, you broke your face, but in Spain. ;-)

      I'm not sure about the liability issue. They did get him up to a standing position fairly quickly. You would have loved to be there, I'm sure. It is one of the few times when I was rendered speechless, so astounded I was that they were doing nothing that I expected or thought they would/should do.

      I am horrified to think what would happen to me if anyone used my current passport photo to reconstruct my face. It is hangdog and mugshot worthy. NOTE TO SELF: GET NEW PASSPORT PHOTO.

    2. heh, heh... If this happened to me today, I would love to have the oldest passport photo possible so they might consider tucking in the flabby bits and the wrinkles, lol.

  2. Wow, Nance. You, the other lady, and the store personnel were definitely his angels at that moment in time, even though he acted like he didn't need you.I'm absolutely appalled at the behavior of the paramedics. He had the potential of dying right there. What if he had been in cardiac arrest? Isn't this type of situation that's the very reason why you call the paramedics so that you get checked out before anything else happens? I'd like to say that our local paramedics wouldn't behave that way at all. I've certainly never seen them respond without equipment, inquiries, etc. I know they are not quick to produce a form to release one and won't accept a release without a discussion on what's best for one's safety/health. I bet Silas won't even tell his girlfriend (or anyone else for that matter) that this incident happened. He's not wise to ignore the episodes, of course. I wonder if he does so because he already knows of the alternative. One just never knows the back story of folks. Glad you were there to help him, but I know that's not a great comfort as it was all left so unresolved.

    Yes, as soon as I started reading I thought "Wait a minute, this has happened before!"

    1. Shirley--Honestly, you are so right: what a wasted call to them. We may as well have taken care of it ourselves. They contributed absolutely zero.

      Isn't that shameful? In all reality, none of us did anything, really, to help, except flip him over like a pancake and interrupt his shopping, delaying his schedule. He probably drove home, took some aspirin, and that was it. It's all, as you said, frustratingly unresolved. I don't think he should be driving with those kinds of spells, and I am still upset at the behaviour and lax performance of the paramedics, but I have to get over it.

  3. I'm fairly horrified by this story. Shouldn't they have checked on him? You made a very vaild point...he's going to go get in a car and drive home. Perhpas not the best idea. I am slightly reminded of my mom, when she was ill. She so hated the idea of being a burdon, of needing people to help her, that she would either demand help, or completely refuse it. No in between niceties.

    1. J@jj--Oh, I'm TERRIBLY horrified. Still. Everyone I've talked to is. No one can believe that the paramedics didn't at least take vital signs or a brief health history. Mr. Bell did NOT refuse treatment. He simply said he did not want or need to go to the hospital. This man could have had a stroke, albeit mild, or have had a history of stroke. They didn't know; THEY NEVER ASKED.

      I can certainly appreciate your mom not wanting to ask for help, then seeming to demand it. She probably became so disgusted and frustrated at truly needing it that when she did finally have to seek it, it seemed like a demand. I've been there. It's a Pride Thing. And of course she didn't want to be a burden, ever. Your mom was so fiercely independent, both body and spirit! Bless her soul.

  4. That's an amazing story. I cannot fathom how it is that the paramedics didn't do more for him, at least in the way of taking some vitals, talking with him about his previous falls. What kind of society allows this to happen? I wonder, was this team of paramedics incompetent OR is that how they all are now?

    1. Ally Bean--You know, I started to wonder myself, Is it that I watch too much television? Am I unaware of how paramedics behave and react IN REAL LIFE? Maybe what we see on television is over-dramatized. Hoping someone who knows weighs in.

  5. Boy, the paramedics around here love to bring all their equipment into the building & check vital signs - & it usually takes about 4 of them to do it. Maybe they're busier up your way. I sure hope he doesn't get billed for that non-service!

    No one has commented on the most important aspect of this story - who is the black haired lady? Why did she look familiar?

    1. Wait, not the most important aspect - the most mysterious!

    2. Bug--The black-haired woman--the nurse--looked familiar to me, and that was it. I probably saw her either in one of our doctor's offices or on one of our (many) trips to the hospital in town. We live near the hospital, and due to my late father's heart condition, Rick's frequent spinal pain blocks, the boys' various trips to ER, etc., I likely saw her a few times. Probably due to being a teacher, I remember faces, and hers sort of rang a faint bell in my memory. Other than that, no idea. I did associate the idea of her being a nurse with her face, however, and felt immediately better.


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