It’s really strange how you meet people sometimes. This past week was one of the strangest I can recall. I was on my way to work on Monday – a day like any other. When I got to the roundabout in Neenah, I noticed a car stopped on the far side, blocking my way. I got in the circle and as I pulled out, I noticed there was someone laying on the ground just to the left where the sidewalk comes down to meet the road. Instantly I recognized the person on the ground as the crossing guard who is usually in the median on the south side of the circle. Fearing the worst, I thought a car had hit her.
I got out of my van and asked the driver of the other vehicle, now standing near the woman, if everything was OK. What happened next bothered me… I didn’t react quickly. I hesitated and observed for what felt like an eternity. Not knowing the situation, but not rushing to aid someone in need. In reality it was probably 10 seconds, but it felt like 10 years. I noticed the other driver was on a mobile phone as he stood near the woman on the ground. Her hands were moving and slightly raised to her chest as she lay on her back with her knees slightly bent. The man was calling 911 for help.
As I approached the woman, I saw blood on her hands. I thought perhaps she cut her finger. The man was trying to put her mitts on to keep her hands warm, but was struggling with one hand on the cell phone so I stepped in and helped the woman with her mitts. That’s when I realized the problem was not with her hands, but her head. She had slipped on a patch of ice while helping one of the school kids across and hit her head causing it to bleed. She had on earmuffs and a headband, but no hat. There was a pool of blood behind her head about six inches around, but not getting any larger when I got there.
After getting her mitts on, the other man went to his vehicle and got a towel. I helped the woman put it behind and over her head to keep her warm, then began to talk to her.
“Hi. What is your name?”, I inquired.
“Carol”, she replied.
“Carol, my name is Chuck. You’re going to be alright. We’re here to help you.” It was odd what went through my mind and how aware I was, and still am, of every thought. “Keep her calm. Keep her talking. Are her pupils dialated? What did you learn as a child, from books, and from your mentors about talking to people in need and what should be said now?”
Carol’s eyes looked OK, but she was clearly shaken. The man on the phone kept talking and pacing. I only picked up bits of the conversation.
“No, she’s talking…”
Shouldn’t I be hearing sirens by now? It must have been five minutes since he called and the Police, Fire, and EMT are all within a mile of here. “Carol, help is on the way.” She looked like she wanted to fall asleep, and I knew that if the head injury was serious enough, that was a bad idea so I kept her talking. I tried to make small talk about the school, how we had seen her every day, and how much we appreciated her work. I think I ended up doing more talking than she did.
“Where did that little boy go that I was helping?” she asked.
I was touched by her dedication to remember the boy who was no long gone, likely without knowing what had happened – and probably better that way.
A few moments later the EMT pulled up. The other man and I had to move our vehicles so they could get by. We had done an effective job of blocking the roundabout exit insofar as everyone else had to take a detour to get to work. Like most inconvenienced drivers, they were probably more concerned about being a couple minutes later than expected rather than knowing the full extent of the situation. There’s something to keep in mind the next time traffic isn’t going your way. Consider that someone’s life could have just been changed in a flash and you want to complain about a few extra minutes.
Shortly after the EMTs arrived, a firetruck and police car arrived on the scene. Knowing that Carol was in good hands, I slowly slipped off to my van and went to work hoping for the best.
When I got to work, several people said they saw my van and asked what had happened. I told them. A few thanked me, but I couldn’t accept any thanks. I really hadn’t done anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done.
The next morning Donna was with me on the drive. As we approached the same roundabout I expected to see a substitute crossing guard, but was overjoyed when I saw Carol back at her post. I rolled down the window as some chilly March air rushed in. As we passed I shouted out “Good to see you back Carol!” and I applauded a few loud, leather hand covered claps.
She only had time to reply “Got a few staples in my head, but I’m OK.”
She’s been there every morning ever since and I’ve made sure to smile and wave, and she returns the gesture. I’ll never forget that chilly March morning when I was introduced to Carol the crossing guard.