The week or 10 days that was September 16 to September 26, 2013 in 2 parts, this being part 1
I’ve had an intense couple of weeks. I’ve been in Vancouver, and not on Bowen Island, for a whole week due to the generosity of my good friend Sonya allowing me and my girls the benefit of an apartment sit while she is away. Here goes, going back 2 weeks.
Monday, September 16– Prior to my evening shift at Insite I was walking through the Downtown Eastside and encountered an older man having a grand mal seizure on the sidewalk. I was waiting for a walk light and heard his bike crash to the ground. I ran across the street and he was lying on his side, seizing with his bicycle helmet still on. Kind of perfect as far as first aid protocols go- already lying on his side and no risk of head injury. I have taken on the habit of leaving work with a few pairs of those blue disposable gloves you see used by emergency services personnel in my pocket. Nothing says you know what you’re doing more than being in civilian wear and whipping out the disposable blue gloves. Works better than lights and a siren. Two other men were there, one phoning 911, and additionally one of my esteemed work colleagues Duncan saw me as he was driving by and stopped to lend some much valued support as well. Everything went well, the ambulance attended and took him to the hospital. I took his bike to my workplace to keep it safe until he returned from the hospital and the younger of the 2 men, kind of adrenalized by the rush of being a saviour (as opposed to me, I’m so well adapted to it), wrote him a note with my workplace address and some brief well-wishing. After leaving his bike safe at the back of my workplace I still had enough time to grab a coffee before my shift started. While doing so the same man, quickly back from his hospital visit, retrieved his bike, being helped by one of my day co-workers who was well up to speed as to what had happened. His gratitude was obvious but what was also obvious was his confusion- he still had no idea what had happened. So let’s review- a man has a medical crisis on the street, is helped by no less than 4 strangers at the scene, then by ambulance and hospital, then by another man at an unfamiliar medical facility who helps him retrieve his belongings, walking through it all in a confusing miasma, and understands nothing except that he’s been well cared for. A beautiful metaphor.
Tuesday, September 17– Prior to my evening shift at Insite I was walking through the Downtown Eastside and encountered a man, known to me, beating the shit out of a garbage can. In his pronounced psychosis, the garbage can eventually got tossed into the busy rush hour intersection, him chasing after it. Garbage can and contents continue being abused, garbage strewn the length of the crosswalk. Cars, of course, didn’t stop and barely slowed, swerving to avoid being late or inconvenienced or making an insurance claim. I called out to him by name from the sidewalk and asked him to let me help him (blue gloves to the rescue) and he waved me over. I went into the intersection, grabbed the garbage can as he began to collect the garbage he had just liberated, putting it back into the can and stating that we should just say that we found it like this. Traffic still not in our favour I returned by stating that he’s either going to get hurt or in trouble if he doesn’t get out of the intersection and guided him to the sidewalk. I turned away, leaving him in order to continue on my way to work, and noticed no less than 3 people on various corners of the intersection recording the events on their phones. So let’s review- a medical crisis of a physical nature, people rush to help using their phones to gather help. A medical crisis of a mental health nature people use their phones to… shield themselves? protect themselves? entertain themselves? Mental health, admittedly a huge frightening mystery, could use a substantial effort at demystification. I can’t help but connect this kind of fear and passivity to a teenager getting shot to death by police on a streetcar, among other current tragedies.
Wednesday, September 18– Prior to my evening shift at Insite I was walking through the Downtown Eastside and encountered (I’m not making this stuff up) a police incident. I could hear the escalating voice of a man who was around a corner in a lane. I looked around the corner and saw a young man overly well known to me, handcuffed, sitting on the ground, starting to pontificate about injustice, bleeding from a large gash in his forehead. This one requires some background so this is where I’ll defer to part 2.