After The Fall

What would you have done? Walking through the library parking lot while returning to my car, I noticed four or five young children and a lady hovering over an elderly gentleman lying on the ground next to his car. It appeared as if they were trying to help him stand up but were having no luck. I quickly walked over and before anything else I talked to him. I asked him if he was okay- if anything hurt- while looking for signs of injury or discomfort. It appeared that he was more embarrassed than anything else.

He said that he was okay and begged to be back on his feet. He was quite a heavy fellow and realized that the lady and these kids would have made a clumsy effort to get him up. I positioned directly behind him and gave him a bear hug from the backside lifting him up while using my right knee bent in a 90 degree angle as a potential resting spot for him and me as well. Fortunately, I was able to get him up and had him lean against the rear driver side car door. I asked him what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to get into his car. I opened the door and helped him into the driver seat but not before I noticed an older lady sitting on the passenger side up front. I asked her if she could drive and she said “no” and pointed to her left foot which was in a soft cast.

Three different times I asked him if he wanted to seek medical attention and he flatly refused. The lady who originally tried to help get him to a standing position subsequently told me as he drove off that she saw him fall and hit his head hard against the pavement. She said he was not gushing blood but that there definitely was a wound.

What would you have done? Everyone deserves a modicum of dignity. The man did not want medical attention. Was I wrong to insist that he not leave? Should I have forced him to lay like a helpless baby on the ground until an ambulance showed up?

Several thoughts raced through my mind in the brief minutes I did my possibly Good Samaritan thing. I vividly remembered the two times Ma called me from her cell phone when Dad could not figure out how to get the automatic gearshift out of park or neutral after waiting for her in a shopping mall parking lot. Ma, having never driven, actually thought the car had stalled or something was wrong with the transmission. It was just simply a case of Dad’s mind going blank and not concentrating. These two events happened within a month or so of each other and it was not long after that Dad fell, broke both ankles on his 80th birthday and spent the rest of his life, another six years and nine months, in a nursing home.

I also remember the time while he was in the nursing home that the director indicated that it somehow slipped up that Dad had an appointment to see his doctor off campus that day. The home, however, had forgotten to arrange for a medicar to take him. It was on me to use my car to get him there. At that point in time, Dad was not helping much in standing or moving his legs to help anyone while he was transferred from a wheelchair to a chair, let alone a small sedan’s front seat. I asked for a nurse’s aide to come for the ride to help me get Dad in and out of his wheelchair. The director looked at me and said, “yah, sure”, laughing all the time. In other words, it was just Dad and me and Ma along for the ride to keep Dad preoccupied.

For most of the six years of Dad’s non-requested stay at the nursing home, I was strong enough to lift Dad up from his chair and put him in his bed. One of the nurse’s aides taught me the trick while also using a knee as leverage just in case. Dad got “spoiled” as he expected me to do this for him each time I was over to see him, which was just about six times a week. I wanted him to have his dignity and not be forced to wait for an aide who had about a dozen residents to care for.

It was not too difficult getting Dad out of the car into his wheelchair. He stayed in his chair the entire visit. However, when the time came in the parking lot to get him out of the chair into the car, it became very apparent that I was going to have problems. It was one thing to get him in bed where all I had to let him do was fall onto a cushioned bed. It was another thing to lift him and get him into a sitting position in the car. I elected to just get him half laying in the car and then figure out how to straighten him up. It became an effort mired in slapstick and pity all the time Dad yelling that I was trying to kill him. Ma, of course, couldn’t offer much help so she looked on to make sure no one thought I was trying to mug him. Finally, a pedestrian passerby saw our situation and was able to help me maneuver Dad appropriately.

Yes, all this went through my mind in the couple of minutes that I became determined to help that fellow lying on the ground. Well, what would you have done?

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