Be Aware of What Happens Around You! An Incident from which to Learn - Doug Fell in the Canal!
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.
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.
Look around you! Smell the roses! Be aware, take notice
IT MIGHT BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH
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)