|Giving first aid to a stranger. (Photo: Chmee2.)|
I used to have a Bronze Life-Saving badge in a drawer around here. I got it when I was about fourteen. I’m water-safe. I can throw a Javex bottle on the end of a rope something fierce. I know the proper way to deploy a life-ring, launch a flare, or how to pluck someone out of triple-canopy jungle with a helicopter, and even what fire extinguisher to use on an electrical fire…
It’s a good thing, too, as you never know when you might be required to give first aid.
There was this young lady at the food bank. She was rakishly thin, with blue-painted finger and toenails, very minimalist sandals, black, stretchy bell-bottom slacks, and something around her neck on a thin chain. She wore a new-looking T-shirt and a thin hoodie type jacket. She was in the line ahead of me, this is where we take a number and sit in a small waiting room until we get called into the office.
I didn’t think much of it, paying more attention to another girl’s baby, strapped into a bassinette sort of thing with a carrying handle and the like. She had a sister with her, there was a strong resemblance in body type and facial features.
What happens is you show ID and then they check the computer. Then they call out over a loudspeaker.
“One adult and one child.”
The person behind the desk writes the same thing, ‘1A-1C’ on a slip of paper and then you go off to another door where they give you a basket of food. They’ve got a table set up and the volunteers have a cart to wheel the stuff up in, important when it’s a family of four or five, and it won’t fit in a hand-basket.
I came next, and then I got my slip of paper and then went out to the back. She was there, and a guy on the other side of the table was packing her stuff for her into bags. She was in between the table and a kind of end wall, although it meant nothing at the time.
The guy was talking to me.
“Look, look. She’s going down…” And sure enough, the girl, all ninety-five pounds of her, sort of fell forward onto the table.
Her legs were buckling.
I grabbed her under the armpits, and thank God she wasn’t a bigger girl, but she just couldn’t stand.
All I could do was to step back and lower her to the floor, trying to get my left hand under her head as she got close to the concrete. The impression of her mouth being closed, her arms limp at her sides, and those big dark eyes looking up into mine is a strong one. I straightened her legs out as they had bent up under her.
I told her everything was going to be all right.
She wanted up almost immediately, and two or three people were talking all at once. She wobbled and I had to grab her again.
She wouldn’t listen, and finally I just hung onto her for dear life, with her sagging and falling, trying not to injure her, while some guy scuttled up with a chair. I put her in the chair and tried talking to her.
She answered questions, and said ‘No,” when I suggested calling an ambulance. They had her in the chair and she kept slumping forward.
Again, they were all talking at once.
“We know what’s wrong with her.” Some gnarly old woman at the back said that.
Well, I don’t know what the hell was wrong with her. One of the employees or volunteers, some guy in a red shirt took over and let me out of there. I got my food and went home.
Hopefully she had someone at home looking after the kid.