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.