The ride in the ambulance is uneventful – everything before that was. When the paramedics wheel me into the emergency room, I see the group of police, highway patrol and firemen outside the slot in the emergency room. “Did he make it? Is he okay?” I ask a fireman as I am wheeled past.
The fireman says, “Don’t know. It is still touch and go.”
They wheel me past the curtained areas of the emergency room to a private room. “I don’t need this type of area. Give it to somebody more in need than me.”
“This one’s for you. You are a hero,” says the ER tech wheeling the gurney.
“I’m no hero. I didn’t do anything.”
My Day Starts Like a Normal Day
Today is like any other day, except I am not in a hurry. It’s Tuesday and judge does law and motion on Tuesday so I am not in trial. I take my time with my morning routine and don’t get on the road until about 9:00 a.m. Because I am getting out at this time, I decide to go to the office on the freeway rather than the toll road I usually take to avoid congestion.
I don’t notice how fast I am driving but traffic is flowing. The sun breaks through the morning mist. I think it’s a great morning.
As I am driving, I feel a slam from behind. I think, “Crap, not again,” and look in the rear view mirror to see who hit me.
I watch a Nissan Altima travel perpendicular across all six lanes of the freeway, then leave the freeway and cut through the ice plant between the freeway and the exit lane for the University Drive exit.
I am not happy as I pull over to the shoulder of the freeway. I stop, pull out my cell phone and call the office, “I just got hit on the freeway. It will be a while before I get to the office.”
I spend a few moments on the phone. I hang up the phone and get out of my car. I walk to the back of my car to check the damage. I see a broad streak of grey across my back bumper. I take a picture, shake my head in frustration, and look at the other car stopped near the exit.
I need insurance information from the driver and a copy of the license. I intend to get the information and get back on the road because there is so much work waiting for me in the office. As I walk through the ice plant to the other car, two young teens are outside the car, one on a cell phone. The driver’s door is open and an older woman is standing there.
Something Weird is Happening Here.
I go to the driver’s side of the car to talk to her. Then is when it gets weird. She is not paying attention to me. She has a bottle of water and I watch her throw water on an old man in the front seat and slap the man several times. He does not respond. He does not do anything. I then notice she is not angry, she is panicked. He has fainted. His eyes are closed and his head moves with each slap. I suggest, “Let’s lower the seat back so he lays down and can get blood to his head. It will help bring him out.” She doesn’t speak much English. She speaks with an eastern European accent. “What language does she speak?” I ask the young man with the phone.
“Russian. She’s my grandma.”
I ask, “Are you on 911?”
He says, “Where are we?”
I ask again, “Are you on 911?”
He says, “Yes.”
“Give me the phone. I’ll handle this.” The young man hands me the phone. “My name is Steve Young. What do you need to know?”
“Where are you?”
“We are in the gore point at the University exit from the 405 freeway.”
“Are there injuries?”
“I don’t think so, though the driver of the car that hit me has fainted. We lowered his seat back to try to get blood to his head.”
“Is he diabetic, epileptic?”
I ask his wife. She shakes her head no. “Negative,” I tell the dispatcher.
“Has he recovered consciousness?”
“Is he breathing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Put your hand on his chest and see if he’s breathing.”
“He Is Not Breathing, and He Is Turning Gray.”
I step to the door of the car. I put my hand on his chest. It doesn’t move. “He is not breathing, and he is turning gray.”
“Then get him out of the car, lay him on the ground and administer CPR. The paramedics are on their way.”
The man is big, probably 250, 300 pounds. I lift him over the well of the car and lay him on the ground.
“I studied CPR in health, I can do it,” says the older boy who kneels next to the man and begins pressing on the man’s diaphragm with both hands.
I have been a Boy Scout master for two years and CPR is part of the curriculum for Boy Scouts. “Step aside, let me do it.” I place my hands midway between his nipples and lean on him with all my weight. I hear the sirens coming. I continue pumping with all my weight on his chest to empty his lungs, and then relax to allow his lungs to refill. He is still unconscious but one eye is half open. I don’t know if he understands what is happening, but I imagine him saying to me, please help me. I don’t want to die in front of my grandsons.
The fire engine comes down the exit ramp against traffic and bounces over the curb. I continue to pump on his chest until a fire man says, “Okay, back off. We’ll take it from here.”
I step away to allow those who know what they are doing to minister to him. They cut off his shirt and affix monitor pads to him. Then they attach a defibrillator to his chest and hit him with current. A second time they hit it. I hear his wife. She is holding her head and crying. I try to comfort her. A third time they hit the defibrillator and she twists away, crying.
God Protected You
I place my hands on her shoulders and say, “Look at all the lanes of traffic you went across. Look at the 10 trees here you went through and you never touched one. God had you in his hands, protecting you and your grandsons. You hit me at the right angle to deflect you from harm, and you hit someone who could help your husband. God is watching you.”
The firemen are now administering digitalis to him as an ambulance pulls up. I notice the Irvine police are there and the highway patrol. The EMTs leap from the ambulance almost before it stops, and pull out the gurney. The firefighters help load the man on the board, then hoist him onto the gurney. All join in carrying the gurney over the ice plant since the wheels of the gurney will not roll.
The Irvine police load the grandmother and two grandsons into a cruiser as the ambulance departs, and both head to emergency room.
Things move slower now. I do not know it, but tears are running down my face. The Highway Patrolman begins asking me questions, then says to a fireman, “Can you look at him? I think he needs help.”
I Don’t Need to Go to the Emergency Room.
The fireman sits me down, wires me up like they did the old man and asks questions, “Are you on blood thinners? Do you take medication for hypertension? Do you have a heart condition? Are you hurting?” He reads the blood pressure numbers to me.
“That’s really high for me.” They hook up oxygen for me and examine me for injuries. I tell him where I hurt.
“You either were injured in the crash, or hurt yourself when you picked him up to take him out of the car. Did you have any help lifting him?”
“Not really. I just did it.”
“We should get you to the emergency room as well.”
“I don’t think I need it.”
“You do. Let’s get you an ambulance.”
“No, I’ll just drive. It’s not that bad.”
“No sir. We’ll get you there and one of us will drive your car.”
“I don’t want to be any trouble. I can manage it.”
“After all you did today, it’s no trouble. You probably saved that guy’s life.”
In the Emergency Room
In the hospital, I feel like I am taking talent away from people who need the attention more than me. A dear friend arrives. My friend is concerned. I suggest, “Go find the grandmother and two kids and make sure they are okay.” My friend steps from the room. I am x-rayed, scanned, checked and questioned, and I wait for my blood pressure to come down.
My friend returns to report on the woman and her grandchildren, “She says, you were so kind to her.” Then the chaplain from the Irvine police department visits us.
“Thank you for what you did out there. He is alive because of you.” He places a medal in my hand. “You are a hero.”
“I’m not a hero. I did what anyone else would do. I don’t think that’s heroic.”
He shakes my hand, “You are a hero. You just don’t know.”
Nobody Helps Anymore.
A few minutes later, the fire captain comes to my room, and this is the reason for this post that I feel awkward writing. The Captain says, “Thank you so much. You kept him going until we could get there.”
“Anybody would have done the same.”
“Not true. Seventy percent of the people will not help because they worry about liability. And 90 percent of people who have been in an accident will not lift a finger to help the other person, even if they are dying. You are truly unique to have helped like you did. Thank you so much.”
In thinking about this experience, I realize the Captain was right. No one on the freeway who saw the car veer off the road, stopped. Only me, because I was hit. Everyone using the exit passed within feet of the black car, where it was obvious there was trouble, and did not stop. It breaks my heart that no one stopped. The police and the firemen do day in and day out. But they can’t always be timely to help those in the fleeting moments of a near fatal injury. Only we, who are there can do this. Have we lost our humanity? Do we not love our neighbors any longer? Wouldn’t I want someone to help me or someone I love? I am sure you feel the same. And if that is true, shouldn’t we do it for our neighbors just as we would want it done for us and our loved ones?
Please. Help, as if your life depends on it. Someday it may.