I’m in a hostel. One of the other guests had a seizure and fell down the stairs, and the hostel called for an ambulance. The man started to have seizures every couple of minutes. The police arrived, looked at him, and sat in their truck. That’s unforgivable: they should have provided first aid, told the ambulance to hurry, and established order and calm.
The hostel clerk was effectively the manger because it was after 9 PM. He called for an ambulance and he felt he had done enough. He checked people into the hostel and gave fresh towels to other people. He was the acting manager of a large hostel and a guest was in mortal danger: he should have taken initiative. The other guests didn’t know what resources were available it where the nearest hospital was. He had the most knowledge and the most authority but he refused to help. Many other guests had to harass him just to get him to call the ambulance for status updates.
I know first aid, but my knowledge of seizures is limited to putting them on their side and making sure they can breathe. There were 20 people who wanted to help, but none of them knew anything more about seizures. So it was not a good situation: there were many of us who wanted to help, but we had very little knowledge.
At times, he would regain a little conscious for a few seconds, but no one was trying to communicate with him. So, when he seemed slightly conscious, I gently spoke to him. “What can we do to help you?” We were able to learn that he has heart arrhythmia, which is potentially fatal. The urgency of the situation was now increased.
The police arrived and could have transported him in their pickup truck but instead they were checking their phones and talking to another police officer stationed across the street.
More than 20 hostel guests wanted to help and many people were suggesting ideas—many of which were good ideas. But no one was able to accomplish anything. Two people had the excellent idea of calling Uber, and I encouraged them to do that. The car arrived, but we were all still upstairs because no one could coordinate our build consensus for any action. I took command and we went downstairs.
On the way down, I said we need to decide who was going to the hospital with the guy. One woman said she would go. Everyone else was too hesitant to say anything. So, I described the type of person who should go: speaks Spanish, will be assertive, and only because of Mexico’s sexism, is male. Fortunately, they made a decision before we put the man into the car. That allowed us to avoid having a long conversation while standing around the car. He went to the hospital, but we don’t yet have any other information.
If I had not been there and if I had not been part of the solution, his risk of injury or death would have been higher. He had at least 12 seizures in 30 minutes and the ambulance never arrived. The hostel staff ignored the situation and the police sucked. Many other people, who clearly wanted to help, did not say to him, “Tell us how to help you.” But I did, and we learned about the dangerous arhythmia. Many people had good ideas, such as using Uber, but no one was able to build consensus or move the group to action. I used my training and experience, however to get the group of strangers to act. I thought ahead and got the group to select who was going to the hospital, which avoided another chaotic, delaying conversation.
I’m happy to help, and I’m glad I had some knowledge and skills that were useful. But I am not asking for praise.
I’m telling you about this because this event is extremely distressing. Because I don’t have enough money to cure my illness, I almost never get to use my skills to help people. It used to be that each day, I would go to work and my actions increased the safety of tens of thousands of people. But for nine years, my skills have been wasted. And it’s impossible for me to heal while homeless, malnourished, and without medicine. I can only rely on four people to help me survive. I need more help just to avoid dying.