Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Matter of Life and Death

I was with CH at the playground near her school today when an old man who was seemingly taking pictures suddenly fell to the ground about 3 metres behind me. The flop followed by loud groan stopped us short and I turned around to see him lying head back, right between the hard concrete and grass.

He was motionless and when I rushed to his side, his eyes were rolled back with mouth opened. I gasped in horror and shouted for help. "Help! Somebody, please help!"

"Please, don't die," I thought, and called out trying to get the old man's consciousness. CH's school mate's mom asked if we should call an ambulance. I reached for my phone but realized I didn't have it with me. "Please do", I told her.

I continued to shout for help as I had no idea what to do. A slim Indian man in a cap saw us and came running over. He gently held the old man's head up to feel if there was blood. There wasn't. I continued to called out to the old man who looks to be in his 70s, using different languagues - Hokkien, Chinese, English, Teochew..."Are you ok? How are you feeling?" No response.

The Indian man lifted his head up higher with his arm and I put my finger out to feel for the old man's breadth. "He's breathing", I told the Indian man in relief. Just then, the old man started to groan. He seemed to be gaining consciousness but he looked lost. For a moment, I wondered if he could have been drinking. The Indian man put his head back on the ground and said there was a bump on his head. I used CH's bottle holder for him as a pillow so the Indian man could remove his hand.

By then, a few more residents have approached and some recognized him as a fellow Chinese National who lives on the 11th floor and went upstairs to get his family. Initially someone suggested to move him to somewhere cleaner, but no one dared to touch him for fear of head and bone injuries. A lady from a nearby childcare centre came out - possibly the nurse - and we tried to get the old man to lie on his side. I've recently browsed through a first aid book and knew the position, but the old man did not want to turn. After that, we all just waited for the ambulance while the old man, fully conscious, continued to groan in Mandarin and wanted help to get up. Once, I heard him muttering that he was going to die. The neighbours consoled him and told him the ambulance would be there any minute.

CH watched us, not knowing exactly what was happening. She asked why I gave her Hello Kitty bottle holder to the man. She scampered off to the playground and continued playing with her friends and only came back when the ambulance arrived.

The ambulance came with 3 medical assistants. They got a brief description from me what happened and attended to the old man. An Indian lady standing next to the old man said she saw him fall, head back. They asked him where the pain was but did not get any answers from the old man. He just continued to groan when the assistants tried to help him.

Just then, his wife came. When asked, she said her husband does not have any heart diseases or high blood pressure. "He has knee ache. He left the house early today and said he was going to take pictures. Maybe he's tired out." Even the lady medical assistant thought the old man behaviour was rather odd. She got her Chinese colleague to ask the old man's wife if her husband's behaviour was normal. She said she had never behaved like that.

The lady assistant put the old man's camera into his side pocket and they tried to move him up a stretcher. The old man groaned loudly for them to slow down. He seemed to be in great pain.

All of a sudden, the old man wanted to throw up and they got him a plastic bag. As they tried to wheel him to the ambulance, he groaned loudly for them to stop. He said he did not want to go to the hospital. The medical assistants had to stop to convince him to have a thorough check. They could not leave him just like that. "If anything happens to you, we will need to make a police report," said a senior assistant. That seemed to work and the old man was quietly wheeled up the ambulance, accompanied by his wife.

"Don't worry about the medical bills. Your life is more important. Just rest at the hospital for 8 hours and you are free to go home if there is no serious injuries." The senior assistant was saying before the door closed.

I am reminded of how my fourth uncle died after slipping on the bathroom floor. He never ever woke up after that. Once, I hit my forehead really hard on the wall loosing balance whilst trying to help my then 3 year-old son in a public squat toilet - what a place to have an accident - I had a brief moment of blackout and must have lost consciousness for a few seconds, holding on to the walls because it took me a few minutes to remember what had happened and where I was. The pain on my head lasted for days.

1 comment:

ART.S.Y. said...

For the record, the old man passed away 2 weeks later, at the hospital.