Horror, Military

After, the reaction sets in.

I had a situation arise yesterday. It took, at most, thirty minutes out of my life, and it certainly didn’t do anything other than make it clear I need some mental re-adjustments about how to answer the door, but… It made me think.

I’m getting ready for class (CJS 101, the irony of which will be apparent momentarily). I have one boot on and the other about to go on when there is a pounding on the front door. Now, I’m alone in the house, and the dog is showing no signs of distress so I think maybe it’s the mail? Forgetting for a second that it’s Veteran’s Day. With boot in hand, wool sock showing… I head for the door. Now there is a second pounding, and as I’m closer, I pick up a certain urgency to it. I glance out the window and open the door, having just shoved foot in boot and am facing two people I don’t know. There’s a man who was knocking, and a woman standing at the end of my car, looking down into the road. A sound like an injured animal can be heard.

I know it’s not our dog, she’s right behind me. The man blurts out. “Call 911, there was a man trying to break into your car and I think he’s having a seizure.”

I run back in the house, lock the reluctant dog in, and dial 911 on my cell, then get back outside, having zipped the boot up. As I round the end of the car, the two people who knocked on the door have disappeared. I’m alone, and there is a man lying in the street. I can see where he’s vomited all over the side of my car and the road, but he’s lying on his side, agonal breathing, and eyes rolled back in his head. I describe this to the dispatcher, including the vanishing neighbors, and she asks me to make sure his airway in clear. Back in the house, quickly, for gloves. NO way I’m putting bare hands in this guy’s mouth. Sweep for airway, which seems clear, he’s breathing and unresponsive although eyes are slightly open. No-one’s home…

The neighbors pop back out, tell me they think he’s on heroin (this is *why* I gloved up). The ambulance shows up, neighbors disappear. When the paramedics shake his shoulder, the man sits up, but is completely disoriented and unable to respond verbally, but doesn’t want them to touch him, either. I’m standing there like a bump on the log at this point, I’d like to retreat but don’t know if they need me. The man gets to his feet (with classic ballerina posturing. This was definitely a grand mal) and fixates on me for a minute, eyes wide and confused. When his attention strays, one of the paramedics herds him to the far curb while the other makes a hand gesture at me, two fingers walking. I scoot as requested, relieved, and lock myself in the house.

I left about 20 min later, as they’d all disappeared. As I turned the corner for school, I could see three cop vehicles and the ambulance. The man seemed to be lying in the bushes. But I got to class on time, and amused my professor by telling him how I was almost late. He informed me that yes, they would help him, even if he didn’t seem to want it, because it was so obvious the man was not all there.

Now, what did I do wrong? I opened the door to a stranger. Granted, from a peek through the side window I thought he was the fellow who cuts our grass, but still. I was not carrying a weapon. I opened myself up to an attack that way. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Would I be armed? More than likely, out of sight.

As I was standing over this unknown man, who was lying on his side seizing and vomiting, I felt utterly helpless. There was nothing more I could do for him than I was doing, which was to call for help, and make sure a passing car didn’t run him over. He was fairly young, dressed well, and in a bitterly ironic twist, wore a belt stamped US Army on a day when veterans who both made it and didn’t make it home are remembered. Was he really on drugs and trying to break into my car? I don’t know. As confused as he was, he could very well have thought it was his own. I will likely never know.

But that he might be a vet struck me. I count many who were and are serving their country as friends and family. I know from a childhood as a military brat and an adult-life-lived that not all who don the uniform are pure at heart. I also know many who broke under the pressures they endured during their service. Which one this man was, there is no telling. The belt may not have been his originally.

There wasn’t anything I could do, other than stand watch. There’s not a lot I can do now, for those who are broken. Best I can do at the moment is talk about it, wonder out loud what it is that brings some people to this point, lying broken and helpless. I’m not naive enough to think that they can all be helped. Some want to be there. Others just might need someone to listen when they are at their lowest.

And me, if I’m needed, I’ll try to keep calm and just do what needs to be done. After, the reaction sets in.

0 thoughts on “After, the reaction sets in.

      1. I’m kinda overtrained myself in the ‘in case of disaster…’ scenarios. Helped a LOT during the 2009 floods. But then again, our family was the type to do the ounce of prevention precautions… we had lots of canned goods and one of the first things I had brought up, besides the children, were water, drinks, milk, food and utensils.

        Anyway, I spent my day productively… and it’s time for me to get to bed! (the results are over at Larry’s ‘Lots of trolls’ post, at the bottom.)

          1. Oh yeah. It’s not the ‘stockpile a half ton of MREs’ mindset, it’s “we’re suddenly having guests, make sure we have enough food prepared,” phone call two hours right before the guests arrive. It’s “Let’s crack open some of the canned goods tonight, I don’t feel very well,” or “Hmm, we’ll need to stretch this week’s budget, good thing there’s canned goods and dry goods to help extend the meal,’ preparation.

            Rhys’ mates nickname my pantry the Zombie Apocalypse pantry. I bite my tongue and don’t point out that at the most, there’s probably a week of food in there and in my fridges / freezer. Rhys, happily, is aware that I often get sick and that means there needs to be a supply of food that can be easily cooked by both housemate and my kiddlywinks, in case Rhys himself isn’t around. The habit works well, and just requires a maintenance of one’s awareness.

            1. When I moved in with the First Reader he had no pantry. Now, we have a well-stocked pantry. Part of it is the convenience, I’m so busy that having materials on hand to throw something together is good. Part of it is that we just don’t have time for shopping!
              And if we ever have a nasty ice storm, I don’t know what I’ll do, everything in this house is electric. I’ll correct that when we move, of course. Makes me nervous.

  1. You opened the door twice, Cedar. The first time to the two people and the second time, they were gone. That last time is the one that had me the most troubled when we spoke yesterday about what happened — of course, I’m the paranoid one ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The two you had seen were now gone, or at least out of sight. That could have been trouble. I am glad you are thinking more strategically now. But, that said, I’d probably have done the same thing you did.

  2. Wow. That could have been a bad situation! I’m so glad you are safe! And I’m so glad all that training came through for you, because when you were little, you did tend to panic in emergencies. Training — and prepping — is a GOOD thing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I get the shakes after. Between Dad, CAP, and other things, I’ve been this way since at least 16 or 17 – calm throughout, then after I have to sit and go all wobbly for a bit. In this case, it happened after class and everything. Made doing homework last night a challenge. :/

      1. A pilot who had more than 10,000 hours on floats in SouthEast Alaska (not counting the time in Africa, or in southeast asia), looked me in the eye after a bad day, and said, “It’s all right to shake, after it’s over. Just as long as you get the job done, you shake all you need to when you’re safe.”

  3. Cedar– glad to hear it’s not just me. I tend to crash hard after a tense situation… jelly in the legs and what have you. But my psyche is paranoid and won’t let that go until I’m SURE it’s safe.

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