Don’t stop and stare
“Today on the road I saw a man,
lying bleeding near his fallen bike
There I passed with a hesitant hand,
a contradiction dressed in white…”
These were the first few lines of “Man On the Road,” a poem I wrote back in 2010 as a student nurse. The memory behind the poem has haunted me for years.
I was riding in a jeep together with my duty group members on our way to a care home in the countryside for our geriatric nursing rotation on a sunny Friday morning. Halfway through the trip, we saw a crowd gathered around a man lying on the road who had been thrown off his motorcycle.
There was no ambulance in sight. Though he wasn’t visibly bleeding, he was pale and he lay motionless.
We talked about going down and trying to help out in any way we could, but unfortunately, the jeep driver didn’t want to stop and we felt disappointed. We felt useless while wearing our white nursing uniforms, knowing that we didn’t have enough guts to persuade the driver to pull over so that we could do what we were taught to do — to give aid to a fellow human in pain.
The same incident happened a year later, but this time, I was on my own (in civilian attire) in a taxi passing through Cabaguio. Right in front of Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes was a motorcycle accident, with the driver lying on the road (surrounded by a crowd, as always). I saw that his head was bleeding profusely.
Once again, to my dismay, emergency services had not arrived yet. Already meters away from the accident, I asked the taxi driver to go back. He asked me why and I told him that I was a student nurse. Despite that, he kept on driving, saying that someone must’ve already contacted 911.
Again, I felt useless. Shit. Never again, I told myself over and over. If I ever had the chance to pass by another accident on the road again while riding a taxi (or jeep), I’d be more assertive and not take “No” for an answer.
And it actually happened to me recently. Again, for some reason, along Cabaguio. It was Man on the Road Part 3, but this time, with a jeep involved. His motorcycle appeared to have bumped against the jeep in front of him and he fell backwards as a result. He was lying on his left side and didn’t appear to be conscious. Traffic officers were at the scene but an ambulance wasn’t around yet.
“Sir, baba na ako dito,” I told the taxi driver when we were a few meters away.
The taxi driver gave me a puzzled look. “’Di ka na tuloy sa destination, Ma’am?”
“Puntahan ko po yung patient.”
“May tumawag na siguro ng ambulance Ma’am. Bakit?“
“Nurse po ako,” I said calmly. “Pa-stop lang please…”
It was then that he finally pulled over. It took him a while, though, to give me my change since I had only P500 bills with me that time. After getting my change, I took a short walk back to the site of the accident.
To my relief, an ambulance had arrived. I checked the scene and noted that there was no blood on the road, plus the motorcycle didn’t have any heavy damage on it, indicating that the impact wasn’t that strong.
I no longer had the chance to assess the patient personally since he had already been carried off and placed inside the ambulance. But because there were police officers who were busy taking down notes about the patient’s personal information along with the details of the accident from witnesses, the ambulance had to stay for a while.
I simply asked the officer nearest to the ambulance if the patient was awake, had any serious bleeding and if he had an IV line in already. The officer told me that yes, the patient was awake (and verbally responsive) and had only a minor cut above his eye. Because there wasn’t any major bleeding, the medic had decided an IV line wasn’t necessary. “Kasama ka ng patient?” the officer asked.
I said I was a nurse (though no longer active), just passing by. Hearing this, the officer still thanked me for my time and assured me that the patient would be fine. I thanked him, too, and left. I then looked for another taxi to take me to my destination. My debt has been paid… at least partially, I thought.
For most people it’s easier to look away from suffering, especially when they think they are unable to give assistance, which makes them feel helpless. It takes a lot of heart to actually look back, turn around and give (or get help) in whatever way possible.
And this I know. You can take a nurse out of a hospital, but you can never take caring out of a nurse. We are called to serve all the sick and the injured whether on or off duty, and whether uniformed or not.
Don’t just stop and stare. Show that you care.
* * *
Johanna Zehender, 29, lives in Davao City. She is a registered nurse.
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