Primum non nocere

January 18th, 2010

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I saved a man’s life today. Well I didn’t necessarily save his life, but I helped him briefly during some sort of physiological event. At first it looked like he was just a slow moving old man, but then his body started folding towards the floor. Another kid and I caught him and moved him out of the way.

He was heavy for an old man. Maybe he would have been over six feet standing straight. Of course we asked him if he was okay. “Yes, yes,” he said. “I just need to get on my feet.” We tried propping him up on his cane, but we could feel him still using us for support. “I need to catch the train to White Plains.” At this point a few other people had come over. “Oh, that’s the MetroNorth,” someone chimed in. “Maybe we can get him a cart.”

Getting him on the train didn’t seem like the best plan. “Has this ever happened before?” I asked him. “No, no. First time.” “Maybe we should get a doctor or someone to come over then.” He was both disoriented by his predicament and embarrassed. Someone went and found a police officer while now three of us remained holding him up. Within a few minutes there were five police officers, two with machine guns and helmets. They’d convinced the man to lay on the ground and told him there was an ambulance on the way. One of the armed officers gestured with his machine gun for us to back up. “Thanks to everyone who helped, but please back up.” I stayed and watched the old man briefly insist on getting on the train but eventually relent to being taken to the hospital.

As I walked away to buy some sherry for tonight’s risotto I thought that perhaps the man had a sudden neurological problem that disabled his motor cortex. Maybe this also explained why he was so confused. I liked the feeling of diagnosing him. And helping him too. Should I go into clinical neurology? You don’t have to answer that.

Time for bed. My backpack is packed, my lunch is made, and my clothes for the first day of school are laid out and sitting just by the heating vent on the floor so they’ll be nice and toasty for me in the morning.