The indescribable feeling of being in a situation in an important time and place but able to do anything to help.
Monday, November 12, 2007.
I was with my family shopping at Dollarama on Circle Drive one day. The family restaurant is only closed one day a week, this was the only day we could have gone shopping. I can't remember what exactly we purchased, but I would have gotten things that could be broken down into raw materials for one of my projects. We finished, paid, and walked out the door and was walking into the parking lot when a young mother, crying and yelling, carried her infant boy into the dollar store.
I followed in to see the situation. The mother and the boy were on the floor of the entrance way--the mother was crying and panicked, and the boy was looking around lifelessly. Her son was having a seizure. Her son was blinking and seemed to be looking around, looking at me, and was starting to foam at the mouth. The mother explained that her son stopped responding to her suddenly when they were in the car, not even when she was screaming her son could not respond.
I stood there trying to rationalize what should be done in such a situation. The mother was crying in confusion, panic, and despair. There was another lady, a customer of the store, who was calming the mother--She also has a boy who has regular seizure episodes. One of the cashiers ran to get a small area rug for the boy to lay down on. A different cashier had already phoned 911 and an ambulance was already being dispatched.
All I could do was stand there. I looked around, I looked at the boy who was looking back at me, I didn't know what could be done. Within the collective knowledge of everyone present there was nothing that the 20 or 30 people in that store could do to help--myself included.
I kept looking at the boy who would look around at the faces in front of him, then his mother would hold him up or move him to his side to clear the foam frothing from his mouth. He looked back at me, and I looked into his eyes. I stood there frustrated that I didn't know what to do, frustrated that I couldn't do anything, he looked back at me with a very calm expressionless face--blinking. My eyes connected with his once more as he lay motionless looking at me without expression--until he stopped blinking. I checked for breathing--he was breathing normally, but now he's unconscious.
Within two more minutes the ambulance could be heard from the distance coming fast. It pulled into the parking lot and I remembered running to hold the outside doors open waving at them signaling that this was the right store. The truck pulled up and the front passenger went to grab a medical bag from the back of the ambulance. She came into the store and as she passed by me I let her know the boy had lost consciousness about 3 minutes ago.
I left the store shortly afterwards. The feeling of uselessly not able to do anything in the situation sat deep in my chest. I walked away from the store towards the car regretting that I couldn't do anything for the boy. Uttering a silent prayer and leaving my hopes with the paramedics, I left for home with a heavy feeling of unease in my heart.
During the trip home my Mom shared a story from her childhood in Vietnam which I have not yet heard before. She had a younger brother which also had a seizure episode. Both my mom and her younger brother were shopping with my grandma when my mom's younger brother went into a seizure. Rushing him to the hospital was a challenge without the availability of cars or ambulances. My mom and my grandma carried him by foot until they asked a merchant pedal bike or some similar bike to take him to the hospital.
Shortly after they got to the hospital he was revived and my mom remembered talking to her younger brother. He would have been only a couple years old. Both my mom and my grandma were relieved. Hearing that lit a smile into my face too, and I marveled at the advancement we've made in medicine to save lives. My mom ran home to tell the family everything that happened, and that everything was going to be alright. After my mom finished explaining my grandma followed into the house; after my mom left the hospital her brother had another episode and the doctors weren't able to revive him--he passed away shortly after my mom left the hospital. My mom to this day wonders why things turned out the way it did. She wonders what would have happened if she stayed a while longer, to talk and play with her brother in the hospital, would he have been alright? How could someone be lost so easily in a modern hospital?
I don't know why things end up happening the way it does. I pray for the blond haired boy who I met that day, but don't know who he is, where he is, or what happened after I left that day. I marvel at "our" societal advancement in medicine and saving lives, but there is a greater truth--the truth of the unknown: the truth that one can never know the end.