Man, I’ve been here almost a week. Do you know what I just finished doing? Washing half a pint of blood off my only winter jacket.
See, I was waiting for the L train at 3rd Avenue just minding my own business when this lovely lady in her 50′s decides to peer down the track to see how far away the oncoming train is. You know the one I’m talking about; the one with the 6 foot drop from the platform that leads down to two metal rails?
When all of a sudden… she falls over the edge.
She hammers the back of her head on the second rail and goes basically limp. I figure the next train is about 60 second away, so I immediately leap over the edge and basically break all forms of first aid protocol. I quickly weigh the odds – she COULD have a spinal injury that I’m aggravating, but I’m going to assume that a POSSIBLE injury is less dangerous than the CERTAIN DEATH she’s going to face when she gets run over by the L train. So I haul her up on my shoulder, at which point she comes to, and I quickly get her back to the edge and holler at a couple of dudes to grab her arms and pull her up.
I clamber up myself back onto the platform (I think I can HEAR the train coming, but I can’t see it, but I’m not eager to stick around to see just how close I can cut it) and I quickly assess her – she’s got a pretty good head of hair that’s preventing me from seeing the wound, but the blood on my shirt and jacket tells me she’s got a pretty nasty head injury (while I’m doing so, the train comes zipping into the station – about thirty seconds later, which would have been the very train that ran us both over). I’ve got her shifted her back from the edge of the platform and use her scarf to apply pressure, which isn’t working all that well, but a lady steps off the recently arrived train, sees the excitement, and asks if I “know CPR”. I tell her she doesn’t need CPR, but I could use a few kleenexes or napkins if she’s got any in her purse. She goes one better and offers a pantyliner, which is great, because they’re just much better at absorbing blood than a knitted scarf. I send the bystander off to call the paramedics and to please come back and tell me how long they’re going to be once she contacts them.
I keep the pressure on her head and get her talking; I want to assess her speech – is she going in to shock? Is she slurring her words? She seems to be in exceptional pain but she’s not slurring, which is good – I get her to hold the bandage on her head (which, I’m guessing, is about a two inch laceration that is really, REALLY bleeding) and I do a quick body search to see if there’s anything else that I need to worry about. She can feel both her toes, which rules out a spinal; her knee hurts but it’s mobile, so that’s good, and while she’s complaining of leg pain, I don’t feel a compound fracture so I leave that area alone and go back to applying pressure to the hole in her head.
I engage her and tell her I just got to the city from Canada and BOY this is exciting and my name is Kevin and what do you do and isn’t New York just a FABULOUS city (I also reassure her husband, who is shaking like a leaf, that she’s going to be fine). Her name is Nancy and she’s an artist from the village, and I get her to tell me about her job while I check what’s called her “cap refil” – which is a really quick way to tell how someone’s circulatory system is doing. You push down on a fingernail and see how long it takes for the white area to go pink again – you’re testing the speed at which blood is flowing to the extremities. She’s about a second, which is longer than I’d like, but she’s still engaging me and answering my questions so I don’t think she’s going into shock (which is very good – it means she hasn’t lost too much blood).
So the NEXT train eventually shows up. It’s going quite slow as it comes into the station, so I guess the lady told someone at the station, who relayed to the driver of the next train that something was up and to take is slow coming in. The driver leans out his window and tells me the paramedics are en route.
I keep the pressure on and just basically hang out with Nancy and we chat until the boys in blue show up in about 5 minutes, with the paramedics about 2 minutes behind them. I keep acting as primary respondent (and the cops do crowd control as the next train arrives) until the paramedics arrive – I hand off the patient, pass on the few of her vitals that I got (I’m sure I missed a load of stuff, it’s been a while since I had my first aid class!) and tell them that this is Nancy, she’s got a 2 inch laceration on the back of her head, RBS reveals no other pressing injuries but there’s something up with her right thigh that I can’t diagnose, that she’s got a bit of an abnormal cap refill, and let the professionals with MUCH more training than me do their magic.
Once I do the handoff and the boys are getting her on a spineboard, I shake hands with the husband, give my name and number to the police, and continue on my merry way.
…on my merry way, riding the subway, covered in blood.
Ever try to ride the subway covered in blood? It doesn’t really matter how crowded the car is. People make room.
Anyhow, I had a couple more apartments to check out, but thought I’d call it a day – nobody’s going to rent a pad to somebody who looks like he’s just come out of a running gunfight. My jacket was covered with the muck and oil and crap from the subway tracks, I had blood everywhere, and just decided to head back to the guest room I’m staying at in New Jersey to see if I can make myself a little more presentable and to salvage the only winter jacket I’ve got! It’s been through the wash three times now and it’s looking pretty good.
So that’s week one all wrapped up. When they say “New York is exciting”, man, they weren’t kidding!
Later someone asked me how I managed to avoid the “third rail”. I didn’t know what that was at the time, which is probably why I leapt down as fast as I did (and why other dudes were so hesitant to join me down there). Basically, it’s the super high voltage live wire that carries the current. How did I manage to avoid it? Easy. Absolute ignorance and sheer dumb luck!
My new employer says I should be in the paper, which I think is probably a bit of a stretch. But then again, it might help me in my apartment search – You want references? Sure, ask this lady and her husband. They seem to think I’m a pretty good egg. Now where on the lease agreement did you want my signature again?
**EDIT: Wow, so it’s Monday now, and the ever kind Jay Adelson decided to pop this story (which I wrote for my friends back home, because I figured it would be easier than five phone calls!) on Digg. Three thousand Diggs later I’ve got a whole lot of fantastically kind comments (and my co-workers gave me a fun pin that says “hooray for me”, which I though was very nice).
Anyhow, a few people have thrown out the “hero” word, which I think is a but much. The guys who hit the beaches of Normandy in broad daylight and ran INTO the machine gun fire? Yeah, THOSE GUYS were heroes. Me? Somebody needed help, and I was there, so I helped. Because that’s what people do, you know? We help each other. I like to think that if it was anyone else in my place, they’d do the same thing if they were able. Hey, if nothing else, perhaps this will encourage people to get out there and take a basic First Aid class – so if you somehow find yourself in a situation where you need to help somebody out, you’ll be ready to rock!
I’m more than a little stunned at the number of eyeballs that have read this story over the past 24 hours (and people who actually read it to the very end – brevity is not one of my fortes!) and I guess I just wanted to take a second to thank you for all the kind words.
Oh, and I think I found an apartment – thanks for all the great suggestions!