Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wheel Chair on Max Train Capsizes, Ejecting its Passenger

I heard exclamations accompanied by the thud of – of what? landing bodies?

My first thought was that a fight was underway, and my impulse was to immediately distance myself from the epicenter. But as I looked away from my book and began to collect my things, I saw with horror that a woman was sprawled on the floor in front of me -- Good Night! She lay thrown to her side, a short distance from the motorized wheelchair she’d fallen out of, that too on its side.

Already, three or four surrounding people had dived in to help. One learns a lot about oneself when something like this happens. My first inclination was to hold back and let others handle it – though certainly I would have jumped right in had there been no one else. But as it was, I sensed a great commotion coming on, and my priority was to get my VERY EXPENSIVE reading glasses safely into their case, and make sure I had a firm grip on my bag. Maybe that kind of instinct is a result of spending much of my youth in the writhing metropolis of Naples, Italy. Or I suppose it could simply mean I’m a selfish pig, I don't know. I do know that situations of chaos and commotion are prime opportunities for spontaneous robberies. In any case, once my personal possessions were secured, I dove into the pile to help out.

I’ve never seen one of those things tip over. They look so bottom-heavy it never occurred to me they could. I’m not sure how it happened. I think she was anticipating her stop and traveling toward the door at the same moment that the train went round a bend and then stopped at a station.

We buzzed the emergency button I’ve mentioned in recent posts, without doubt this time as to whether this was a legitimate use of it. The driver asked if we needed her to call an ambulance, to which we conveyed the woman’s clear answer: No. Please do not call an ambulance. After a while the driver’s voice came over the speaker asking how we were doing back there. “We have a lady down,” answered one astute passenger who seemed the most on top of the situation, “and we’re going to try to get her back into her wheelchair.”

At this point the driver stopped the train and walked down the platform till she got back to where we were. Shortly a Tri-Met uniformed man (whom I think the driver had summoned) also appeared on the platform. Much discussion ensued, and I found myself in the role of translator (like I so often am in real life) since I was the closest to her head. Her head was on the floor, and she said she was hard of hearing on the upward side, so “translation” or message relaying back and forth was necessary.

We followed her instructions and got her back in her chair. Her arm on the down side had been scraped and bruised. She was completely a good sport about the whole thing, and thanked us all profusely as the Tri-Met official wheeled her off the train. Names and numbers were solicited from those involved. No doubt they’ll want to figure out how this happened. If they ask me, I’ll have to say I have no idea, since I only saw the done deal.

As you know I’ve seen some doozies on that train, but I have to say that everyone around her was nothing but kind and helpful. No slobs to be seen.


At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what are you saying ? Certainly glad I was not the one in the chair you only "observed." Portland is the most accessible city in my humble opinion, I am from the other coast and it shames me how good it is there,in Portland that is ,until now , SO Act sooner, protect your expensive specs later, disabled folks won't steal them, trust me. My brother just broke his neck in a low speed endo, I hope he never tips over and has someone watch it. Glad the Trimet dude at least was aware. I think I am leaving my devotion to your blog, sorry. Good luck in the future.

At 8:25 AM, Blogger kate gawf said...

I'm sorry about your brother. That must be extremely upsetting. If you go back and read my text, however, I think you'll see that you missed a few things.

I wish your bro a complete recovery.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

I was reading Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point, and it talks about the psychology behind how a group of people respond in an emergency. There can be delays in group responses, because everyone is watching everyone else to see how to respond. If nobody does anything, people get the feeling that maybe it's not a big deal after all... When you're by yourself though, you tend to jump into action sooner.

At least that's how I remember's been a while since I read the book...

At 3:39 PM, Blogger kate gawf said...

That book has been on my must-read list for years, and your mini-review will no doubt nudge it up higher in the priority order.

It might also be relevant that I’m not a crowd person. I’ve never been one to jump into the fray without a plan. At the other end of the spectrum there are those with natural leadership abilities who will throw themselves at the front of any stampede and act like they’re leading it, whether they know what they’re doing or not. The important thing is to know oneself well enough to recognize how you can best contribute. The downed wheelchair passenger seemed very appreciative of the emotional support and message-relaying assistance I was able to offer when I crouched down next to her head.
Everyone at the scene seemed to know their best role in helping the felled person. Portlanders are generally kind people, I find.


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