Russell's Blog

New. Improved. Stays crunchy in milk.

Drama and the Gas Station

Posted by Russell on January 26, 2007 at 6:19 p.m.
I went to the gas station on the way to school, and while I was filling my tank, I noticed this elderly man screaming at his car. Evidently, he had forgotten to press the button to release the door over his gas tank (or the release had broken, or something), and he was trying to pry the thing open with his keys. Finally, the door popped open, and he fell over and bashed his head on the pump and his car door. He started screaming.

I ran over with a bunch of people to help him, and we found that his head was OK (he hit the hoses, not the pump itself), but that he had excruciating pain in his thigh. My immediate thought was that he had broken his hip. He wanted help to stand up, but couldn't, even with help. I told him that it was best if he just tried not to move, and to call the paramedics. His hip might not be broken, I told him, but that if it was, standing up -- even with our help -- could make it much worse.

He refused to let us call the paramedics, and insisted that we help him get back into his car. We obliged, as gently as we could. It was a very difficult; he was taller than me, with a sturdy build, and seemed to be made entirely out of bone and gristly muscle. He started sweating from the pain, and winced whenever he moved his legs.

I brought his card to the attendant, and filled up his tank for him. This took a few minutes, and distracted him enough to get him to calm down. He seemed to be in perfect command of his faculties, but was deeply embarrassed and frustrated. The pain seemed to subside a little, but every time he tried to move his legs back into his car, he would howl with agony. He wanted to drive home, so I asked him, "Even if you can control the car, what will you do once you get there? How will you get out of the car? Do you have stairs? Is there anyone at home who can carry you, if you fell again?"

He said he would drive to the hospital. So, I told him that if he's going to to the hospital, he may as well have the paramedics take him. He again refused to let us call an ambulance.

Two guys from a nearby auto body shop came over, and offered to drive him to he hospital. He agreed. We then lifted him out of the driver's seat, and placed him in the back seat where he could lie down. It took six people to move him, but we were able to support him by his shoulders and back, and moved his legs as little as possible. I was very worried about this, but he said that we didn't cause any more of the sharp pains he felt when he tried to get up the first time.

I warned the guys from that body shop that UCLA charges insane parking fees, and there was a good chance that even if he is discharged today, his family might not be able to arrange to retrieve his car from the hospital for some time. Some years ago, a good friend of mine had to pay a huge parking fee for his father's car after an extended hospital stay. I think that's a rotten thing for hospitals to do to people. Fortunately, the man lives nearby, so the guys from the body shop said that if his family will come and pick him up from the hospital, they would drive his car back to his house. This seemed to be a great relief to the guy, and he busied himself with his seatbelt.

I'm not sure if this was the right thing to do. As heroic as those fellows are, I still feel that we should have called the paramedics immediately. However, as long as he seemed to be in control of his faculties, I couldn't justify overruling his wishes. Should I have?

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