I am driving down a side road towards the main avenue near our home when I see a man, arms flailing as he stumbles along the sidewalk. He windmills for a moment at the edge where the sidewalk ends and the road begins.
I can’t see his fall. There is a parked car blocking my view.
I drive past. See him lying on the pavement.
I pull over. Get out of my car and walk quickly back to where he is lying, face up, on the curbside. He is staring up at the sky. Eyes closed. Arms splayed out at his sides, palms open.
Me: Are you okay? How can I help you?
He opens his eyes. Looks at me. His eyes are bleary.
Man: I don’t know. I fell.
Me: Yes. I saw you. Can you move? Do I need to call an ambulance?
Man: No. No. No ambulance.
Me: How can I help?
Man: I was just going for a coffee.
He wants to sit up. I lean over to help him and he moans.
Man: That doesn’t feel good.
He lays back down.
Me: What’s your name? Mine is Louise.
He starts to cry.
Me: Do you live near here Wayne?
Wayne: Yes. In that building. And he waves one arm towards the apartment building to his right.
His speech is slurred. His words come out in a mumbled stream. I think he has been drinking. A lot.
Wayne: I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
Me: There’s nothing to be sorry about, Wayne. But I do need to call 911. I don’t know how else I can help you.
He nods his head. Up and down. I call.
As I wait for EMS to arrive more cars stop. A couple of men walk over to where I am sitting on the curb, Wayne sprawled out on the road beside me.
They ask what they can do to help. I tell them we are waiting for EMS.
They stay and keep us company. Wayne continues to apologize. He is crying. He tells us he sometimes has seizure.
Me: Did you have a seizure just now?
Me: Do you have epilepsy Wayne?
I pause and think about my next question. EMS will need to know.
Me: Does alcohol cause seizures for you Wayne.
He nods his head slowly, once. He keeps crying.
Me: It’s okay Wayne. Just breathe. Deep slow breaths. EMS will need to know about your seizure and the alcohol. It’s important.
He nods his head again. Up and down. His tears keep flowing.
Me: Are you in pain Wayne?
Wayne: I don’t know.
Me: Are you cold?
One of the bystanders offers to get him a blanket.
They determine nothing is broken and help Wayne get up and walk him towards their ambulance. “We’ll take over from here,” they say.
I thank the two men who stopped to help.
“Thank you for stopping,” one says. “Not many would.”
“You did,” I reply with a smile and start walking towards my car.
Another man who had stopped his truck across the street and stood with his wife on the sidelines while we waited for EMS approaches me.
“Excuse me,” he says.
I stop and turn back towards him. “Yes?”
“Did you used to work at the Drop-In Centre?” (an adult emergency homeless shelter in the downtown core where I was the Director of Communications for 6 years)
“Yes,” I reply slowly.
“I thought so. I remember you. It’s nice to know there are kind-hearted people in the community,” he adds before wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving. He and his wife return to their truck and drive away.
I walk to my car, get in and drive to the store where I was going when I saw Wayne fall.
I will be late. It is Thanksgiving Day. Our guests will have arrived for dinner and everyone will be wondering where I am.
There were many kind-hearted people out that evening. Two women who came from the condo building on the other side of the street. I asked them to go to the main avenue to wave down the ambulance.
The two men who stood watching over us as I sat on the curb and chatted with Wayne.
And the other’s who stood waiting and watching until EMS arrived.
No one had to wait but in the tale of this city, people care enough to stop and help a stranger helping another human being lying on the side of the road.
I am grateful.