On my second day in my new role, I saved a woman’s life. I don’t think I get much credit here. I was leaving my apartment building and she was sitting/lying on the steps with a phone in her hand. She was on the phone with emergency services; and couldn’t really tell them what was wrong because she was feverish. So, I did what…you know…any goddamn human being should do.

But when we were waiting for the ambulance in the dark and the dirt; as she stripped off her clothes in a brutal British winter and started to become delusional – I tried to keep her calm.

I said “Help is coming.” I thought, “I don’t know if it is.”

Another of a million moments in a foreign country, when you just don’t know what is true. The woman on the phone said they were coming. I think she meant it. She told me what to do if the woman vomited or faded into unconsciousness. But I’ve been promised help here before. It’s dangerous to get your hopes up.

I’ve phoned the emergency services back home. It wasn’t a picnic. I’ve been told my friend has a funny name for a boy when he has fallen and can’t move his arms or legs. My high school friend’s mom died before the ambulance got there. It wasn’t me who called that time. I called when the surfer dude was slammed into the waves. They were the foreigners then; holidaying and helpless.

Her partner got to us eventually but he’d never seen her like this. He didn’t really know what to do.

Me and my panic disorder did, as her vision began to go.

I don’t have any first aid training; and I still don’t know what was happening to her. That’s her business – I know she’s home safe and that’s what matters.

But I knew what to do when she thought she was dying. I knew what to tell the emergency services. I’ve been told to call them enough times. I knew what to say for the 40 minutes that felt longer as we waited for the ambulance in the dirt and the dark. I was calm when she started to speak Romanian; when she called out to her love, her mother, her God. I knew how to restrain her when she tried to run even though she couldn’t really stand. I was calm enough to make sure her partner had my number as they finally put her in the ambulance, in case he also didn’t have people nearby.

And then I turned and walked away as fast as I could. I told myself it was because the paramedics didn’t need extra people getting in the way. I think that was probably true. But that wasn’t all.

She was screaming by then. I could hear it all the way down the road. I knew the sound of it. Too well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s