Saturday, August 09, 2008

Helping out

About a block or two from my reunion picnic today, we passed a jogger and her dog on the side of the road right by my alma mater high school. The jogger was down on one knee next to her dog. It was about 90 degrees--hotter than that on the cement.

"That doesn't look right," I thought.

We went down to the next street, turned right, did a U-turn, waited for at least three cars to pass her by, headed back, and pulled into the parking lot. We rolled down the window.

"Are you OK?"

No response.

I got out of the car and went over to her.

"Are you OK?"

She shook her head.

"I'm calling 911."

She shook her head again.

"No. I'm calling 911. Let's get you into the shade. Do you have asthma?"

She nodded her head.

I got my cellphone out and called 911. The dispatch guys were incredibly professional. I'm impressed that they knew to connect me to Littleton, Colorado dispatch rather than to Vancouver, Washington people.

My wife took the dog's leash. I kept my hand on the girl's back. Human touch is incredibly important, and this kid was really scared. Dispatch asked me her age, and since the kid couldn't talk, I eyeballed her and guessed 13 or 14. That probably pissed her off, since she shook her head and pointed upward. I guess she was 16 or 17.

She wheezed loudly, struggling for air. She was damn scared. I would be too if I had an asthma attack while I was out for a run without my inhaler or my cell phone.

Thankfully, another car stopped, containing a medical assistant. She clocked the kid's respiration at 86 per minute. I'm not sure what normal respiration is, but that feels high to me. They got out their cell phone and asked the kid to dial her home number (since she couldn't speak). The paramedics made great time. The parents also made good time. "We try to tell her to use her inhaler," the dad said. "She won't listen." I bet she will now.

She was loaded into the ambulance. I think she was wheezing less. The paramedic said she didn't think it looked like an asthma attack so much as a panic attack. I suppose the former could have led to the latter.

We offered to take the dog and put it into their backyard so the parents could go with the kid. He declined and took the dog.

Everything went as it should. Dispatch, paramedics, other passersby, and kid were great. Even the dog was incredibly well-behaved in a stranger's hands. If he/she had been angry or spooked, it would have made a tough situation tougher.

The only thing that disturbed me was that too many cars passed the kid up. Please, all of you...STOP THE CAR if you see something weird. It's uncool that I was the first and that I was there for 4/5 minutes before someone else stopped to help.

And kid, whatever your name is, I hope you're okay. I'm sorry I got your age wrong. Please listen to your parents about the inhaler.


Paula said...

I'll have to ask around when my students show up and see if any of them know the girl.

tommyspoon said...

Speaking as an asthmatic, I thank you for this kindness.

I was never defiant about my inhaler, although sometimes I wouldn't take it with me on dates. (Stupid!) But I can understand what may have been going through her mind: having asthma sucks in part because there's nothing in your appearance to suggest that there's anything wrong with you. You're just "lazy" or "a slacker" instead of someone who has a hard time making that lap around the field. Hell, during allergy season, I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

Hopefully she'll have my experience of the disease loosening its grip over time.