Sunday, July 12, 2009

911 Again

Earlier this week we had a family medical issue in which calling 911 became a factor. The main person involved is doing very well and is reenacting The Blues Brothers for me as I write. However, it was emotionally and mentally draining for us all. I'd rather not go back to that issue, but I ended up calling 911 again today on (or for) a customer at work and that's a story I am willing to repeat.

Carol is the sweetest old lady. One afternoon last year, the end of my finger met a blender blade and Carol gave me a Band-Aid. Almost every time I cut myself (which is more frequent than I'd like), Carol comes in to get her iced coffee and we laugh about my clumsines.

Today she was in, and was very excited to see me, sweet thing. She seemed out of it and asked if my boss S was the owner, which was odd as I had introduced them on a previous occasion. I got her "the usual" and she went to sit out front. About half an hour later, she returned, shaking and trying to support herself as if her legs weren't quite working properly.

"Girly," she said, "I need you to take this cup and put ice in it with just a little water."

"Okay," I replied. "Are you feeling alright?"

"Of course. Why do you ask?"

"You just look a little ill. I wanted to make sure."

"Oh no, I'm fine."

About three hours later, she returned. I saw her confront a young woman, who was sitting at one of the front, outdoor tables reading and listening to her iPod. A conversation took place, in which Carol ranted. I debated going out there to ask if everything was okay, but decided that I'm not the city cop and shouldn't butt in.

I decided not to take mind, picked up a piece of chalk and went to edit the soup-of-the-day title on the blackboard.

"Um," said a voice behind me. I turn around and it's the young woman. "There's something wrong with that woman. I think you need to call 911."

"Yeah. I noticed she was acting weird, too," I said. "She can't seem to walk straight."

"I think she's intoxicated," the woman added. "She asked me, like, what I did with her brother and why I sat there for three years. Then she started talking about horses."

We agreed that she wasn't feeling well, and I called 911. I told the dispatcher that Carol was possibly intoxicated (or may be diabetic, and her blood sugar was too high or too low) and that she bothered the young woman.

"Alright, I'll send an ambulance over with a squad car," said the dispatcher.

"Thank you," I said. "I can see in the reflection that she's sitting on a bench in front of the candy store. Should I talk to her or try to get her to stay if she walks off?"

The dispatcher said something along the lines of, "I wouldn't advise it, but if you feel that you should, go ahead."

The young woman stayed in the shop, and I went to talk to Carol. She was leaned back in a stiff white chair, and winced at the sun, but seemed unable to shade her eyes or look away. Her words were slightly slurred and she wasn't making much sense. I took advantage of her state to her a glimpse of what was to come.

"Carol," I said. "I'm really worried about you. You don't look well at all."

"I don't?" she asked.

"No," I replied. "In fact, I'm having a few friends come over to take a look at you. They're doctors, and they'll be able to see if everything is alright. Okay?"

She seemed almost relieved.

"Yeah, okay," she said. "You said they're doctors?"

"Mhm. Are you feeling okay?"

"Yeah," she said, sounding about as unsure if she was answering the trivia question of the day. "I was just sitting out in the sun a little too long."

"Have you had anything to drink this afternoon?"

"No, just my coffee," she replied.

Just then, a utility vehicle rounded the corner with its red lights shining. It headed for us.

"Girly, what did you do?" Carol asked, appalled.

"I just want them to make sure you're okay," I assured her, and then lied: "They're not going to take you away."

The utility vehicle was able to pull up just feet from where she sat and I stood. Carol let out a little gasp at the bright red vehicle with gold decals shouting FIRE AND RESCUE 911. An ambulance appeared a short way down the road, and it pulled up behind the rescue vehicle. As EMTs jumped out onto the sidewalk, two black and white squad cars pulled up behind them.

"I just want them to make sure you're okay," I repeated to Carol. "I'm really worried about you."

"Girly, that's not what you do for someone you want to help!"

Several of the paramedics pulled on bright blue gloves, an item that I have become familiar with in the past week. I relayed part of the situation to a whisker-faced paramedic, who then began to ask Carol a few questions.

Carol looked at a bald officer, who I recognized as having come to my relief last March when I dialed non-emergency on two male customers who had harrassed me.

"Who are you?" asked Carol, pointing a shaky finger.

"I'm Officer M of the Township Police Department," the officer said, and nodded his head.

"No," Carol said, "I mean, who are you?" She looked at me, and then back at the officer. "I don't want anything to do with you."

I finished relaying the situation to the whisker-faced paramedic, who was joined by two other EMTs. One of them was grinning, because I guess not all that many 18 year old girls call 911 and are willing to participate afterwards. In the door, I could see my boss's dad watching us in amusement and amazement. He was also on the phone to, who I presumed, be S.

I went inside to grab a bottle of water (I was dehydrated and feeling a little bit of the heat from the sun and adrenaline) and caught the phone just as S called. I filled him in, told the young woman (who had stayed safely inside) that it was okay to come outside and we both went back out to the paramedics, cops, and a miserable-looking Carol.

I mentioned to one of the EMTs that it would have been easy for Carol to get a drink, because there was a bar right on the corner. He laughed (and I thought it was kind of funny, and thought about how the EMT who helped us immensely earlier this week was hotter and wasn't old enough to be my father). This EMT told me that after a person has a drink, even a small one, it's not good for them to sit out and roast in the sun. I mentioned to him (and the other two eager and listening medics) that when Carol handed me her nearly empty coffee cup to replenish with water, there was a substance inside that looked different than watered down coffee.

One of the officers said they were going to take Carol back to her apartment.

I went back inside to help a waiting customer, and then peeped out the door again. Carol was knelt down next to the squad car. They seemed to be waiting for her, but I didn't have time to watch.

I have a feeling that this was what happened: Carol wasn't feeling good after her coffee, and went to the bar to get a pick-me-up. The alcohol disagreed with her medication (I believe she told me she was diabetic) and couldn't muster enough mental energy on how to find her way home.

Either way, I have most of the week off and I'm looking to some quality time with my novel and my people. Baking and easy-listening music might be involved.

But I most certainly need to give full credit to God for handling many a difficult situation and helping me through them. That's what happens when you pray for courage and strength :D
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