Most train rides to NYC are pretty non eventful… and the riders pretty much want to keep it that way. Very little eye contact, never mind a “good morning” — even though we are sharing our personal space for between 1-2 hours. Which brings us to this day.
Seated in front of me was a young woman, late 20s/early 30s… carrying her oversized handbag that was half as large as her in one hand… some kind of large iced coffee drink in the other… and her ears safely blocked from the outside world with those trademarked white Apple ear buds.
I didn’t even notice the middle aged gentleman that sat down next to her. He came in with the crowd from Fairfield where the hunt for a seat intensifies to a winner take all battle stance. In fact, I wouldn’t have noticed him if she didn’t turn around with a look of panic on her face about 20 minutes into the trip. I was one of the few that actually had his head buried in a newspaper as opposed to an iPad (which I think protects you from having to share a seat far more than an iPad does).
She caught my eye probably the second or third time as she turned around and was trying to mouth something to me… it was almost like she didn’t want to break some kind of Quiet Car Train Code. But then it registered… “he is having a seizure!”
The young lady with the iced coffee and the big bag and ear buds didn’t realize she was getting a call today.
And that call was from someone right next to her, a neighbor who was actually foreign to her… and needed her help in a big big way.
I got up and thought the gentleman had already passed on… he was very pale, his eyes were open but little sign of consciousness. A conductor was near by, I got his attention and told him about the seizure. He called for help and the train proceeded to Stamford where it stopped for Rescue to board and attend to the sick man. That distance seemed to be an eternity. During that time, the man regained consciousness and wanted to know what we wanted of him. He acted like he was just sleeping and I started wondering if that is really what had happened. “Thank you for your concern but I am fine.”
The Rescue personnel had the train stopped for about 10 minutes or so…
It was weird… some people in nearby seats were either sleeping or had their heads buried in their iPads… like this wasn’t even happening. At least no one complained about the train delay.
The man was polite, soft spoken but firm in not wanting any help. He said, “I just passed out for a couple of minutes, it’s nothing!” I really started thinking we made a big blunder and were totally embarrassing this poor soul until one of the Rescue workers asked, “has this happened before?” To that he said, “3 times in the past 2 months.” Rescue finally convinced him to get off the train and at least sign some paperwork. When he realized that he was holding things up and folks were starting to look up from their iPads, he agreed to get off.
I don’t know what happened next, whether he continued to refuse help but I do know this much. If he was sitting next to me I might not have noticed there was a problem. The young lady did tell me that he started shaking and is eyes were rolling into his head. Sitting behind him I could detect no such activity. I might have thought he was asleep… I might have left him there… He could have been having an embolism, or a stroke, or a heart attack. But the young lady next to him did notice…
And as soft spoken as she was, she spoke up.
If she wasn’t there, we might have walked by, figuring he’s still sleeping as lots of the long haul commuters do.
It doesn’t sound like much does it? Someone needs help and you get if for them? Thankfully, this young lady had the good sense to notice. To realize there was something wrong… and to act. When something is obviously catastrophic, your attention is riveted and your better instincts and adrenalin kicks in. But this was subtle, quiet, camouflaged. How easy it is to overlook the quiet cry for help. But she heard it…. right through her ear buds!
I spoke to her before she got off the train… and thanked her for paying attention. She was shaking and crying a little. I told her she might have saved his life. She said, “I don’t think it was that drastic!” I said, “who knows, maybe you stopped him from getting in a car later in the day, and hurting someone else.” I guess you never know when you’re going to get called for an opportunity to make a real difference.
I wondered what happened to that gentleman. The other day I was in NYC again and as I was getting off the train I noticed him walking on the platform… so I guess things turned out all-right.
But this young lady, whoever she was, knows what it is to #BeVital.