Daily Prompt: Fight Or Flight, Or: A Day In The ER

Hey, folks. Yesterday’s Daily Prompt was all about flight or flight. You know, that reaction that everyone has to stressful situations? It reminds me of the time I helped fight a house fire, but something similarly stressful came up recently. You might’ve noticed that the updates this past week were kind of sparse. It wasn’t because I left the country again (though I wish it were), but I spent an entire day at the local ER. Not for myself, though. I got a call early in the morning from my aunt. My grandmother’s knee has been worsening over the past year, but she’s been too stubborn to see a doctor. Eventually, it got so bad that she couldn’t even stand up anymore from the pain. My aunt wanted to help, but she’s just gotten out of the hospital herself, so she wasn’t in any condition to do anything. I hadn’t left on my commute yet, and I was the closest one around. I got there as quickly as possible, consulted an advice nurse over the phone, and had her call an ambulance. They got her out of the house surprisingly fast – they had to haul her down two flights of stairs and part of a hill – and let me ride in the back of the ambulance.

Never had that on my bucket list…

Anyway, I oversaw her admittance from start to finish. I’ll spare you the personal and gory details – I’m pretty sure that a knee tap is the most agonizing medical procedure I’ve ever seen – but it basically boiled down to me stepping up and handling things personally. I’ve done it before countless times in the office (I was nicknamed The Boss Man, after all), but never in the thick of a medical emergency. There was this immediate realization and acceptance that okay, this is all up to me now. It must have been the adrenaline, but I never lost focus on what had to be done or what information needed to be communicated. I took notes, asked and answered questions, worked on logistics, and managed conference calls with family members over the phone in order to keep everything organized. Some of my relatives were surprised that I was the one in charge; I’m notoriously quiet and shy in most social and family situations, so seeing my all-business, no-nonsense persona was a shock. I had too many other problems to care.

In the end, we had to talk her into temporarily going to a nursing/rehabilitation facility. It’s the lesser of two evils; no one wants to lose their personal freedom, but they have trained staff and more physical therapy resources than she’d get at home. She’ll be there for another two weeks, but at least she’s getting regular visits from family. In the meantime, I’ve spearheaded Operation Get-Grandma’s-House-Prepped for her inevitable return. Handling someone else’s livelihood and personal business can be a hassle, but it’s necessary. I didn’t realize it until later that first night, but I’d spent the entire day without eating or resting; I had been running on adrenaline. Once I got back home, I collapsed into bed and slept better than I had in years. Amazing how much the fight can take out of you.

One last thing. If you have elderly family members, take the time to call them up and see how they’re doing. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and overlook the important things. Don’t let loss be the only reminder of what you have.

A Fire In Five Minutes

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about being bold. As in, stepping in and helping someone in danger. I have a few experiences like that, but the one that sticks out the most (and is the least graphic) is when I fought a fire in my neighborhood. It was a few years winters ago, but I can recall it clearly. I was playing Street Fighter III when my uncle came barreling through the room.

“THERE’S A FIRE NEXT DOOR!”

As he ran for the phone to call the fire department, I dropped the controller and made a beeline for my shoes. I needed to get out there, and fast. I couldn’t see the fire directly from where I was standing, but I could already smell the smoke. It was close. There wasn’t time to look. Okay, I thought. it’s the weekend. Someone has to be home! I bolted for the nearest house and desperately rang the doorbell. I pounded on the door, yelling for help. A few heart-pounds later, an older man answered the door.

“What’s wrong?!”

“The house is on fire! Over there! Help!

My neighbor grabbed his extinguisher and sprinted across the street. I didn’t join him just yet; I knew we would need more people. So I went around to more houses, banging on doors, begging for help. Luckily, a few neighbors were actually home. We all met in front of the fire – it was still limited to a single room facing a back alley – and let the extinguishers loose. I’m not sure how effective it was – none of us had any fire fighting training – but it was certainly better than just standing there and watching the place burn down. Given the proximity of other buildings and trees, the fire would’ve spread across the neighborhood within minutes. I noticed a side door was open, so I ducked inside to make sure there wasn’t anyone trapped. There was nothing but searing heat and smoke. When I heard the sirens, I ran back out onto the corner and waved the fire trucks in the direction of the blaze. I returned to the front lines and kept my extinguisher going until the water started flying.

As the professionals shunted me aside, I focused more on keeping people organized. As a precaution, my power and gas were turned off. I guided the workers to the breakers, answered their questions, and paid close attention to everything they told me. The temperature was just below freezing, so the house was going to get cold really fast. I didn’t want my family shivering and huddling in blankets as night fell. So I kind of hounded the workers and made sure that everything was getting done as quickly and accurately as possible. I’m sure they thought I was annoying. Just as we were lighting candles – very carefully – the lights came back on. Everyone was too shaky to cook anything, so we all opened a can of beans fell back on the microwave. The stench of smoke and burnt wood choked the neighborhood air for days, but that was fine. The house and people next door were safe, and so were we.

The time between me putting down the controller and the fire department arriving was less than five minutes. But in that tiny stretch of time, I moved and thought faster than I’d ever done before. I didn’t even realize until an hour later that I had been standing in subfreezing temperatures in only shorts and a t-shirt. I had been too focused to even notice. Adrenaline can do funny things to you. I don’t know how much I helped, but I did everything I could. And considering that the house is still standing, I guess it was enough.