I headed to Ace for some bolts we needed to finish River’s projects. You know, for the up-and-coming escape to Oregon. The big bonus was that I got to ride the fat bike in -18 degree temps. It will be like a mini-epic. Plus everyone would see me and say, “wow, what a cool guy”…. Right?
I was approaching the intersection of Ronan and South 14th. A USPS truck was acting suspiciously and caught my eye. The driver soon emerged and started sprinting down the street. Then something else caught my eye and some inner-brain override gave an alert. My head immediately turned right and my focus narrowed in on a figure. A man was dragging himself up a curb and something was VERY wrong with one of his appendages.
Everything told me to help and I put my bike down and ran across the street. At first, it seemed to me the man was missing a leg, homeless, and inebriated. But stop right there … I was making this up in my mind. I was trying to make an excuse to get out of a sub-zero situation. But I stayed.
Turns out the man needed help and I told the postal person that I could help get him back up and on his way. We agreed it was too cold to leave a human out on the sidewalk. The man kept pointing down the street as we picked him up to almost a standing position. What is wrong with your leg we asked and I was where his prosthetic was. But then it became apparent the other part of his lower leg area was dangling to the side. We just needed to re-attach it right. Just get him on his way. I sensed pain and asked if we could just get him to a sitting situation.
I kneeled and looked into his eyes. I suddenly saw my dad Fred. Someone who was out walking his dog and fell. Who was confused and needed help. I fought back the tears so that they wouldn’t freeze …on it’s it was so cold. My companion inspected his leg. His eyes meet mine and he started to go to that place far away, then come back. We needed to stay focused. A car pulled up behind us and put on its flashers.
“I feel BONE, oh my god I feel bone”, USPS said. I stood up to call 911. The 3rd time I have used this phone for such an urgent situation. And for the 3rd time, it failed. I even dialed 911 manually. It started to dial, hung up, and asked me if I liked the app, to give it a rating. Stupid Pixel, shame on you.
“Anyone have a working phone”, I held up my piece of shit flagship. The woman in the car said that she was on it and the other started rummaging in her trunk for blankets. The postman put his coat on the man and I knelt again and looked into the man’s eyes. His eye was blackened and I wondered to myself what happened to him. Hit by a car perhaps. No matter what the police would find out when they got there, right? I noticed his gloves were wet from crawling on the ground.
“Do your hands hurt, are they cold”, I inquired.
“My hand hurts, I can’t feel my figures.”
I put my gloves on him and put his wet ones in his pocket.
“Are you with anyone, do you live around here”
“I am just about home”, he pointed to a nice house all decorated with a Christmas theme. A cute little porch with a mailbox on the curb.
I kept repeating the number he told me and sure enough the third house down was the exact number he gave me. I started knocking on the door. Finally, a man appeared.
“There is a man that has broken his leg and he says he lives here”, I started to see the worry in his eyes.
“Oh no … let me put some things on and I’ll come right down”
I walked back just in time to help get the man off the ice and onto a new red wagon. Probably one that someone just bought for a Christmas gift. The police person showed up and she slowly approached. So cautious she seemed to not want to get involved. The officer started to ask whose vehicles were blocking the road.
“This man has a broken leg”, I pointed to an obvious grotesque stump with a shoe flopped to one side. It looked as if the man was confused and tried to walk on the stub. I almost felt faint.
“Mam is this your car … Sir is that your bike???”
The ambulance pulled in and stopped. I started to feel relief. Maybe they would rush to the man and try to comfort him and get the low down. The ambulance drivers casually strolled to the back of the ambulance, motioned to hold on, and swung the doors open. They produced a fancy stretcher and proceeded to lower the legs. An e-stretcher, how cool. And we waited for what seemed an eternity and the servo motors slowly lowered the legs. Once down the operator proudly started to drive or push the massive electronic emergency device toward us. It got stuck in the snow and one of the EMTs looked up.
“This man has a broken leg”, I pointed again. I turned to the police officer, “Am I supposed to help?”
“Don’t worry sir, we have some burly firefighters coming to assist”
I went to the injured man to try and give comfort. I looked into his eyes again and told him help was on the way and that his friend was there and everything would work out. He was in pain now and all I could do was hold his hands and rub his back. I couldn’t help but think about my dad. Is he safe?
A huge fire engine appeared quite quickly and completed the emergency scene effectively blocking off all traffic. Two more police cruisers appeared and they all conferenced to figure out the traffic situation. I stayed with the man and kept comforting him. A burly, although I think normal, I could be him, a firefighter.
“What do we have here?”
“This man has a broken leg”, I pointed again, this time someone finally confirmed to me that I was heard and that someone was in need.
“Ok, Jear you grab his other arm and … hey, we need two people to help”, I rushed to the man’s good leg. Finally, we were all working together to get this man some help. We lifted him to the stuck stretcher as the man groaned in pain.
Surely the police would get to the bottom of this and someone would finally attend to the person and get his vitals. I waited a bit and then realized my hands were bare and the cold winds were finishing them off. Ouch, I went to the back of the ambulance.
“Hey, this guy might have frostbite on his hands as I pulled his blanket to cover his hands.”
“When you get inside the ambulance take your hands out into the warm air”, I told the man in our last eye-to-eye contact. Hopefully, distract him from his leg. He took the bait and looked at his hands.
I stepped back and put m gloves back on. The USPS guy was just standing there. I think either the police person or the firefighter told us we were good to go and thanks. But the postman just stood there. He had no coat, as he gave it to the person in the ambulance. His thin delivery jacket barely held off the frigid cold.
“Are YOU ok?”, I asked him.
“I don’t know, I think so. Yea OK”
I took a quick photo to see if my phone was still working. I texted Snuggles not to worry, that my GPS dot stopped moving but I was OK.
The police had reached their goal and traffic started to flow again. I pushed the crosswalk button and bright flashing lights stopped traffic again. Everyone left at the scene turned to look at me. I shrugged and headed to Ace hardware. In the dark, 18 degrees below zero. I wondered if my dad was ok back in Billings.