Be Aware of What Happens Around You! An Incident from which to Learn - Doug Fell in the Canal!

Call 999!

From our house, across the lock-gates bridge and round to the other side of the canal; the incident took place on bank far left on photo
From our house, across the lock-gates bridge and round to the other side of the canal; the incident took place on bank far left on photo | Source
Swan looking for bread
Swan looking for bread | Source

Man in Canal!

My partner yells "Call 999! There's a bloke in the canal!"

Art had been outside and happened to look across the canal; he saw a man waist deep in the water, top half still leaning on the bank. At the top of the bank sat a wheelchair. Next to it, on the ground, was a plastic bread bag. Behind, the animal feed factory was in full swing.

Across the canal from our house, people walking by. They didn’t stop. The swans came over to have a look but what could they do other than wonder why the bread supply had dried up? The man was saying, ‘Help, help!’ but not loudly, so maybe passers by didn’t hear him. However, walking within feet of the bank, how could they miss an empty wheelchair? Were they so self-absorbed as to not be looking around them? Do people not observe as they walk? It was a sunny day, the factory was busy, noisy, people working to empty the lorries, others walking home from the shops or exercising their dogs. Art even signaled to a lorry driver to come and help; he didn’t. Maybe he didn’t see the urgency.

Help at Hand

They soon noticed when Art was sliding down the bank. Then a couple of guys offered their aid too, to haul up the hapless man. One man came out from the factory with a broom to stretch out to him. Another quick-thinking fella came out with a long ladder. The paraplegic managed, with help from Art and two others, to haul himself up on the rungs. With much effort and a few rests between climbs, Doug was up and finally seated in his wheelchair, soggy, shocked and exhausted but amazingly uninjured. His calmness belied the situation. He must have spent a good 20 minutes in the water.

Questions & Answers

In the meantime, the ambulance service had asked me to get the man on the phone, to assess his situation. I hot-footed it around to where the action was and relayed what was happening. All the usual questions; was he having difficulty breathing, was he conscious, any blood, anything broken?

Having regained his wheelchair, Doug was able to talk to the emergency service himself and assured them he was fine; he didn’t want any attention or fuss and would go home and sort himself out. We hoped he would be ok and there would be no after-effects, other than drenched, muddy clothes. Doug gave us his name and his address (close by fortunately), shook hands with all his helpers and with many “thank you”s he wheeled himself off.

Feeding the Ducks can be Dangerous

Apparently, Doug had been feeding bread to the ducks and swans, his wheelchair had moved unexpectedly, he’d parted company with it and not so gracefully rolled head over heels down the bank. Thank heavens he’d landed feet first rather than upside down. I still find it amazing that he had no broken bones. A little worrying that he wouldn’t have felt it even if anything below the chest had been broken; as he’d informed Art, he was paralised. He also commented that he’d better check the brakes on his wheelchair.

Thoughts & Observations

Apart from thinking of the worst scenario had he landed head first or if he’d been on a more remote part of the canal, I was left wondering;

why did people not notice his demise sooner?

do people go about preoccupied with their own thoughts instead of their surroundings?

do some feel it’s more important to finish what they’re doing before enquiring as to what someone’s gesticulations might signify?

An Impressive Character

Doug impressed me. He came across as an independent, working man with pride, a calm demeanor and a grateful spirit. He told Art that he had a job as a designer using CAD (Computer Aided Design), that he worked at home and had come out for a while to feed the ducks. He did not require the ambulance service to check him over, made no fuss and voiced his gratitude quietly but firmly. He neither panicked nor moaned about what happened to him.

Although he lived close by and gave us his address, he did not want anyone to accompany him home or require any further assistance. He had a sense of humour; he’d asked Art to make sure his trousers didn’t fall off as they hauled him out of the water and he laughed when I asked him if he wanted the remains of the bread back (it was dry as somehow he hadn’t taken it with him on his short flight).

That’s all I know about this man but I admire him. I admire him for his stoicism, his pride, his resilience and his dignity. From his replies to some of our questions, I’m guessing that he lives alone and that earns my respect too.

Community Spirit

Those who helped were stars. Art is always quick to notice, quick to lend a hand when others need it. His practical skills and common sense are boundless. It was important for all of us to make sure this man was saved, was as little the worse for wear as possible after his ordeal.

It was also important for us to voice our thanks to those who dashed out from work to help, to thank the passers-by who did realise what was going on, for stopping and doing what they could.

People do rally together, the instinct to help others is there. We naturally pull together in adversity. How often in the last year of WW1 commemorations have I heard the phrase ‘wartime spirit’!

However, there is a complacency that slips in too easily. I’m alright Jack. I’m just out enjoying the sunshine, having a walk, all’s right with my world. Well, just hang on a minute! What about the others? Why did that lorry driver not ask if there was a problem?

One message emerged from this ‘canal episode’ and it was loud and clear.

Listen Up!

Look around you! Smell the roses! Be aware, take notice


Copyright annart/AFC 2015


This was written on the day it happened, on this sunny day in March 2015. Things happen all around us; if we miss them we or others could lose out, even die. That’s why I felt it was important to record this event, a small incident in the day-to-day goings on of a small provincial town but a significant incident for the man who fell in the canal, especially as he couldn’t help himself.

I hope the message gets through.

(to protect his privacy, the man's name has been changed)

Drama all Around You

Sleepy backwater or city centre - you never know what's round the corner.
Sleepy backwater or city centre - you never know what's round the corner. | Source


Have you had to react to a life-threatening situation?

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Comments 52 comments

annart profile image

annart 17 months ago from SW England Author

R Talloni: Thanks for reading. I feel it's so important to make people aware of such things. That serene photo at the end shows the spot in the background, behind the lock gates, where this accident happened. Doesn't look like it though, does it? You've hit the nail on the head; we should look, take in our surroundings and react, albeit purely to the beauty around us!

I appreciate your visit.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 17 months ago from the short journey

Thank you for sharing this event and discussing the needed to pay attention to what's going on around us, especially with all the portable technology used in public. The serene photo you've used at the end makes such a point with the caption you added!

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Supuni: Thank you for your second visit today! Yes, some wouldn't bother but thankfully, when people did realise there was an accident, many did help.


Supuni Fernando profile image

Supuni Fernando 21 months ago from Colombo, Sri Lanka

This is the exact reason why we should be really careful and alert. And of course, there would be a majority who wouldn't help the man which is disappointing.

Voted up since that's how it should be :)

annart profile image

annart 22 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, dghbrh, for another visit. Much appreciated.


dghbrh profile image

dghbrh 22 months ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

Very though provoking and practically useful hub here. To learn and to act on the lessons learnt is very important and quick response to any emergency situation calls in this modern lifestyle. We see many things everyday that lacks empathy and your hub is really a gust of fresh air for present time. Well job done and thank you for sharing this true life account here. Shared and votes up useful.

annart profile image

annart 22 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, R.Q. Hope you have a great Easter weekend too!


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 23 months ago from Lincolnshire, England

Thank you for replying dear Ann and please pardon the delayed reply.

It's good to know that he is fine and also understandable regarding ' Doug ' wanting to maintain a low profile throughout the matter.

The elements are on the turn again in Lincolnshire; dull and overcast but hope that you and your family enjoy a grand weekend!

Happy gardening;


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Catherine: Human behaviour is fascinating isn't it? Thanks so much for the comment and votes.


CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 23 months ago from Orlando Florida

Well one. I once did a term paper on altruism. When people se other people around, they are less likely to help because they think someone else will help. If it is a dangerous situation, some people may think they are not physically able to help or they might be afraid to help. Some, like the lorry driver, may not see or understand he situation. so may not be quick-witted enough to know what to do. And then there are The Heroes. They just act. Voted up ++

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

R.Q.: Thanks for the comments. No, it didn't make it into the local rag; 'Doug' was insistent that he didn't want any fuss, not even the ambulance, so we allowed him his privacy and I hope all others who were there did too. We have seen him since from afar so we know he's ok.

Glad you found this uplifting; it is heartening when we see people helping others out of sheer kindness and appreciation of the situation.

Hope it's not too cold 'up there'! Wet and windy here but the garden tells me it's Spring, thank goodness.


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 23 months ago from Lincolnshire, England

' Phew! ' and ' Hooray! ' for Doug and ' Well done indeed! ' for your quick-thinking partner and the two who were with him with their broom and ladder to help that poor, hapless man.

An important message and a very uplifting story Ann; did it make it into the local newspaper, I wonder?


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Mel!

Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 23 months ago from San Diego California

Congrats to you and your daughter.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Hello, Mel. Good to see you.

Yes, too much time is spent on mobiles etc. I never take mine if I just wander into town, except at present when I'm expecting a call anytime from an about-to-produce daughter!

As writers we have to observe life but it's a shame fewer people do because there's so much to miss. Thanks for the visit and the great comment.


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

lawrence01: What a great story! Glad it turned out well for you. It's awful that they turned you away just because you didn't have cash but at least someone there did the right thing - wonderful!

Thanks for reading and for your input.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 23 months ago from San Diego California

I think we all live in a sort of hypnotized pall induced by our electronic gadgets. Sometimes we can't separate reality from the virtual reality we are trapped in, so it doesn't really register when someone is actually in trouble. Maybe, we think, it's just part of a video game. Good to know there are still people in touch with the real world, for Doug's sake. Great hub!

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 23 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

This is a great story. I loved it.

As for me a few years ago I got the chance to visit the Western USA with a few mates. We'd been on a live firing exercise in Canada and managed to take three weeks leave so off we set to see as much as we could.

Montana, Yellowstone, Wyoming, caught speeding in Utah, Seeing the Grand Canyon and swimming the Colorado river were some of the things we got up to.

I got injured swimming the river and ended up with eleven stitches in my left foot. All went well as we had insurance and we went on our merry way until we got as far as San Diego where I needed a dressing change.

Turning up at the local hospital I was asked how I was going to pay for it and said that I had insurance at which point I was turned away as they only did dressing changes for cash!!!

Not sure what to do (I was pretty young then) I was just about to hobble out when an elderly Doctor came through, as soon as she heard my accent she asked if I was British. "Yes" I replied not sure what to expect.

The Doc sent me through to her office and changed the dressing free of charge. I asked her why (while saying a big thank you) and she told me that back in the 1960s she'd been in England and had to have an emergency appendectomy which the NHS had done free of charge (NHS stands for National Health Service). She was so thankful to get the lifesaving surgery that every chance she got to say thank you to the British she took it!!

I've never been so thankful to both that Doc and the NHS!!!

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Yes, Vellur, you're absolutely right. Sometimes it might be a little more complicated but our scenario was simple - go and help!

Thanks for stopping by.


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

manatita: Thank you for your kind and wise comments. We have to try to improve by example, I believe.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 23 months ago from Dubai

You are so right, we must keep our eyes and ears open as it maybe a case of life and death. The people who helped are certainly stars of the day. Thank you for sharing this.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 23 months ago from london

A well-written and thought-provoking Hub. Very necessary for this modern era. Every single day I see something that makes me want to write a Hub on Empathy or lack thereof. Glad you did.

Let us move forward to this brave new world. The one that you and your children, as well as me and mines would love to see. Higher blessings.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Yes, Maj, there are times when one has to think twice. Your example is another positive one thankfully.

My partner takes everything in his stride, hardly ever shocked or surprised, just practical. The sort of steady character one needs!

Thanks so much for reading and adding your input.


travmaj profile image

travmaj 23 months ago from australia

I'm so relieved to know that Doug came through the ordeal so well and even managed to smile and, of, course his gratitude to Art was touching. I guess it was a shock for Art also to suddenly realise he had to do something quickly - or else.

And very well done.

I had a small accident not long ago, altercation with a motor bike in London!. People were magnificent, I was amazed at the attention and kindness of strangers and later medical people. I only hope I thanked people enough in return.

I guess some people don't want to be involved in these dilemmas, time perhaps, repercussions perhaps. Thinking of a guy recently who went to aid a women who was being assaulted and was severely bashed for his effort.

A strange world we live in...

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Flourish! You're spot on with that one; there's always someone else who'll do it.

Yes, everyone was fine but it could have been so different. There were some great people out there, thank goodness.

Thanks for your visit.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

This reminds me of the famous quote:

"There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."

Oftentimes with bystanders, looking out for each other's welfare is that important job that is alluded to above. I'm glad you decided to stand up, step up, and take responsibility for your fellow human being. Glad he's fine.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Yes, Alicia, I'm hoping to make people more aware of what goes on around them.

Thanks for reading and leaving your valued input.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

I'm very glad that Doug landed in the water feet first. The story could have been much sadder if he hadn't. It's scary that people nearby were so unaware of Doug's situation. This in an important hub because it reminds us that we should pay attention to our fellow humans!

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Dora. It's certainly taught me to make sure I look around me even more. Anything that looks odd is worth observation, it seems.

I value your comment and your wise words; thanks for the vote too. Great to see you today!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean

Amazing! Thanks for sharing the story and making us aware of the great difference some time for observation can make. Effective presentation and timely message. Cheers to Doug for his sweet spirit and for Art and the others for their graciousness. Voted Up!

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

You're right, DJ; right place, right time. I agree, the angels must have been watching too.

It was such a simple incident and didn't last long, the victim didn't make a big deal of it either, yet it will have a lasting impression on me for ever. So many other things could have happened but, thankfully, didn't.

Thanks for your input; much appreciated, as ever.


profile image

DJ Anderson 23 months ago

Ann, this is an amazing story. I believe that sometimes, an angel gives us

a gentle nudge to look the right way to come to the aid of someone who

needs help. Goodness knows, we get something on our mind and get

tunnel vision. Thankfully, Art just happened to look the right way at the right time.

I'm guessing that hyperthermia could have played into this and held a different ending to this story.

Wonderful ending to that which could have been a tragedy.

Thanks for sharing,


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Oh yes, I remember that hub of yours! I think it was the first time I read your work.

I do think that people were just self-absorbed here rather than 'don't want to know', apart from the lorry driver.

Thanks for the comment, Nell. Good to see you today.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

Hi Ann, well done to Art for noticing and helping that poor man. I totally agree with you, people just live in their own little worlds these days, its frightening! I remember when i got those two girls out of that burning building the smoke was billowing everywhere, but nobody did a darn thing!

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Theresa. I'm glad it came across in that way; that's exactly what I wanted.

I would never doubt that you are a person who would notice her surroundings and help out whenever she could. Fortunately my partner is such a person too!

Yes, it was a positive outcome but could so easily have been different.

Thanks for your kind comments and great input, as usual, and for your votes etc.

Your visits always lift my day, Theresa! Bless you.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 23 months ago from southern USA

Oh, I am so thankful he is okay! And thank goodness for Art seeing that wheelchair and then the man ...for who knows what would have been the outcome. I always try to be aware of my surroundings and what is going on around me, just for reasons such as this.

I am glad others finally came around to help.

This is an eye-opener of a write to remind us to be mindful to keep our eyes open!

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Excellent write, Ann. You have written in such a way to grab our attention and with a sense of urgency, which was exactly what the situation was about - urgent response needed!

Peace and blessings

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

You have a good point there, Jackie. More lack of concern, more introversion and more fear of 'interfering' or 'going out on a limb'. Sadly, there are too many plugged into their phones or iPods and they forget they belong to the real world.

The people who walked past or ignored this incident were all phone-free but they weren't concentrating on what was in front of them, absorbed in their own preoccupations.

Thanks for your insightful comment and great input.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 23 months ago from The Beautiful South

This could easily happen and a wonder it doesn't more often. A cell phone puts most people with someone else at all times and that is all they are attuned to. This also reminds me of the question I asked lately concerning a mother overdosing and leaving a crying baby that died from lack of food and dehydration. Who would go out on a limb to find out why that baby kept crying? Years ago that would not be considered going out on a limb! That is the difference in concern today.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Fire8storm: Thanks for the comment. Glad you found this interesting and I appreciate the vote. I just needed to share the experience in the hope that it would provoke some thought. Good to see you here.


profile image

Fire8storm 23 months ago

Annart, such an interesting and thought-provoking article. I suppose many don't know how they would react in such a situation but to walk on by and not even try to help is very sad. I am glad you were both nearby to help, that Doug was unhurt and you have been able to share such an important message. Voted up.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Chris. Your comments mean a lot, especially the word 'entertaining' as I was worried it might've read too much like a report.

I know sometimes that I can be preoccupied but I'd like to think I'd take note of an empty wheelchair!

I appreciate the votes and share.


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 23 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

Ann, This is a great way to call attention to our preoccupation with ourselves. I could well have been one of those who took no notice because I was busy with my own thoughts. Well, written, informative and entertaining as well. Voted up, Useful, Interesting and shared.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Mary. I would like to agree with you about those who walked by and that might well be the case. Thanks for your lovely comments and the votes. My best to you.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 23 months ago from New York

We can only hope those who didn't help didn't notice. Perhaps they really didn't see or hear him since once Art showed up to help others pitched in.

This is a timeless hub Ann and one we need to read over and over to remind us there is goodness in the world. Hubs and blessings.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Ruby. Yes it's terrible how some react; surely it's just human compassion that should come into play? Your input is much appreciated. Thanks, too, for the votes.


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Frank. Yes, we all need a shake up now and then. I shudder to think what happens to some people even though they're surrounded by others!

Thanks for your input and for the votes & share.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 23 months ago from Southern Illinois

I am totally amazed when I hear or read a story like this. People are so self-absorbed they never look around and sometimes they see a need but look the other way. I heard a man say that you can't help some people 'cos they'll sue you..Thank goodness your friend has a helping heart. Voted up and away...

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 23 months ago from Shelton

a test for the community is why I think things like this happen.. your hub keeps us in the know and yes we should all be aware of our surroundings.. great share ann.. voted awesome and shared

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

I do hope so, bill. I must admit that the positive responses warm my heart and I think most respond in such a way, unless the situation is dangerous for them. The canal bank is not too steep so it wasn't a difficult task.

Thanks for your visit; great to see you as usual. I must go off to read your latest contribution!


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Patricia, for your kind comment and valuable input. Yes, maybe you're right about 'shaking us back in to reality'. I hadn't thought of that. I appreciate the votes too.

All the best to you.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

Right on, Ann! I applaud those who helped the man. Sadly, those who didn't help him don't surprise me. I've seen far too much of that complacent and apathetic attitude. I choose to concentrate on the positive message in this true life story. :)

Thank you for sharing an important lesson. Hopefully others will learn from it.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 23 months ago from sunny Florida

Wonderful wonderful story. You are right is a two edged sword of sorts....folks do rally round in emergencies....but that do also become complacent. Maybe that is why once in a while these 'emergencies' crop shake us back in to reality again.

Angels are on the way to you this afternoon ps

Voted up and shared

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