When Research Falls In Your Lap



Man holding magnifying glass up to a window so that the image seen through the glass is an upside down version of what we see through the window

Virtual, inverted, reduced by Micah Sittig CC 3.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/msittig/4647341477

I know, I just had a binder of research fall in my lap, and now this…how lucky am I?


What is this? A medical emergency in my train car! (Don’t worry, all’s well)

I don’t have a scene like this, but I might, someday, or you might now, soI paid attention. I tried to be cool like the other passengers and not rubber neck but that’s hard when you’re trying to observe the scene.

Right as the train left the station a man a seat in front of me and across the aisle, slumped over and started convulsing. His eyes were closed, his mouth fell partially open. The convulsing wasn’t dramatically violent. They shakes were short, rhythmic and fairly quickly, but not as quickly as I expected.

I was engrossed in my Google Reader, so I didn’t notice until the man sharing a seat with him and asked (very quietly) for someone to get the conductor. Another man jumped up and (again quietly) hurried to the other end of the car.

When the conductor came, the seizing man had stopped shaking but was still not quite coherent – he was sluggish, like he was just waking up. With help, he was able to sit up. When the conductor asked his name, the man didn’t answer, but when asked if he knew his name, he said yes. There were more questions, most of which I couldn’t hear. The whole time, the conductor was going back and forth between the man, his seat partner and the radio. He kept his body over the man, blocking him from view. Not just mine, as many people as possible.

The train stopped for a while before pulling back into the station.

Once there, a policeman came on and talked to both the conductor and the seat-mate. The man knew where he was, who he was and where he was going. He’d had seizures before and knew that this one had been caused by stress. He was not diabetic. I think he said it was epileptic, but everyone had their back to me, so I can’t be 100% sure.

The policeman actually cautioned the conductor from calling the EMTs because they would ask the man to get off the train and he wouldn’t want to go and it would turn into a long mess. Guess what. He was right.

The Fire Department came to the scene. Four guys, including an EMT shuffled down the aisle. It was tight quarters. The head guy did all the talking to the man and his seat-mate. The second guy  might have been involved with the conversation. I couldn’t hear him, but his body language was engaged. They both pushed forward, bodies almost overlapping in the tight aisle. The third man had what appeared to be a portable defibrillator, and the fourth man hung back, holding a collapsible gurney. Both of these men left breathing room on either side of them and had a more relaxed pose. They had nothing to do but wait.

The head man tried to convince the man who’d had the seizure to leave the train for tests. “I know you’ll be late, but this is your health. This is your health.”

Finally a new man arrived on the scene (another new character – knowing their names would make this description so much easier!). Dressed in working pants, a collared shirt and a pullover, he whispered with the man holding the gurney. At first, I thought maybe the new man was just a curious train rider, but the way gurney man was explaining things, it seemed he was more like a ride-along (think writer following the police on their rounds). After several intent nods, the ride-along moved his way up the line and whispered to the head man. He then introduced himself to the man who’d had the seizure as a manager, and said he was concerned about getting “all these people” moving.

After more back and forth the Fire Department finally shuffled off. Overheard: he can stay, but he’ll have to sign a waiver and the policeman can be his witness.

So, the policeman came back on. At this point, the man who’d had the seizure was packing up, getting ready to get off. The policeman was very insistent that he doesn’t have to leave, that they can’t force him off the train. But, in the end, he got off and we started rolling.

The conductors announced that there was a medical emergency on the train twice. Once when we pulled back into the station, the second time right after the Fire Dept. arrived (they mentioned the FD had arrived). Once we started again, the automated PA system came on saying that we were 20 minutes late because of a medical emergency…I guess it happens frequently enough that they needed to create an automated message.

So there you go, a 20 minute medical emergency and response on a train.

My car was very calm; the people very courteous. Obviously, we knew what was going on, so no one got upset or anxious. Everything was handled in whispers – minimal fuss and maximum privacy…although when I was watching people be as discreet as they possibly could be in such close quarters and the blaring PA announcement about a medical emergency came on, it seemed incongruous. I know that they needed to inform the other passengers and medical emergency is pretty vague, but at that moment it felt intrusive.

When I was standing in the vestibule, ready to get off at my stop, a man from the other half of the car stood beside me. He looked at me with a glint of excitement in his eyes. “Were you in the car with the emergency?”


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