Here is what happened.

I went out at lunchtime yesterday to pick up some milk. I was walking back home through a pedestrian tunnel under train tracks. While I didn’t notice anything specific happen, I was suddenly very aware that something was wrong and that there was someone lying on the ground by the side of the road just ahead of me.

I ran straight over, and a young lady from a nearby shop and a young man arrived seconds after me.

It was an elderly woman (I would soon find out she was born in 1924) lying without moving, with blood coming from her head. The way she was lying suggested she had tripped over the curb.

I asked the lady from the shop to call an ambulance and I asked the young man to see if any of the local shops had a first aid kit.

I am unsure if the elderly woman had lost consciousness, I suspect she did momentarily but she was then able to talk to me, while appearing dazed and confused. She was very concerned for her bag and her walking stick and wanted to hold those close.

At the top of her bag, sticking out, was a prescription bag with a name and address printed on it. She was able to tell me they were her prescriptions and that was her name and her address. I told her my name and I told her help was on the way and she relaxed a bit, but insisted on sitting up. There were some pedestrian bollards near where she’d fallen over and she leveraged herself up and wrapped her arms around one of them. Much as I tried, she would not stay lying down. The best I could do was to have her agree to press some tissues to her head where it was bleeding and I continued talking to her, to reassure her that she was okay and that help was coming.

Now she was sitting up, I could see that she had an existing head wound that had been dealt with recently and looked to have stitches; this was bleeding slightly and then on her cheek and her temple were new wounds and both were bleeding heavily.

Meanwhile, the lady from the shop told me the ambulance would be here within 30 minutes… this felt like a very long time.

Suddenly a car pulled up and a lady jumped out. She came straight over and identified herself as a carer on the way to an appointment. We were very relieved to see her! She took one look, pulled out some gloves and directed the lady from the shop to fetch some gauze from the boot of her car. She immediately took over and was able to start tending to the wounds, ask the elderly lady some specific questions and direct me to the lady’s prescription bag and read out the details to her. The elderly lady had had an overnight stay in one of the local hospitals for a fall just 6 days ago and there was a full list of her medications.

Things then seemed to settle down a bit. The carer asked me to go to her car and get her phone. She asked me to call the most recently dialled number and explain the situation. She was going to be at least late for her next appointment and potentially not make it at all and was worried about losing her job as a result.

I was astounded by this but I called her office. I gave her details as she had just given them to me and explained that there had been an accident and that she was assisting at the side of the road and we were waiting for an ambulance. It wasn’t the best line and it appeared to me that the response from her office was not very positive and while they took note, they asked me to get her to call them as soon as the ambulance arrived.

It was an elderly woman (I would soon find out she was born in 1924) lying without moving, with blood coming from her head. The way she was lying suggested she had tripped over the curb. 

Dave Bushe, QNI's ICNO Data Analyst

The carer at this point was sitting by the side of a busy road tending to a bleeding head wound. I finished the conversation with her office, somewhat unimpressed.

While I was doing this, the carer asked if the elderly lady knew the contact details of her family and she knew her daughter’s mobile number. I called her daughter. I explained the situation and the carer asked me to ask some specific questions, as the elderly lady appeared confused and she wanted to know if there was any diagnosis of dementia. There wasn’t, but the carer thought there were signs.

I put her daughter on speaker and so she could talk to her mother for a couple of minutes and told her that as soon as the ambulance crew had assessed her mother, I would give them her contact details. I promised her I would find out which hospital they were going to and would call her back.

By this stage the elderly lady was very confused and inconsistent. She knew she was hurt but she also wanted to go home but then a moment later she wanted to go to hospital. She wanted me to call her a taxi and then a moment later she wanted to go to a local hotel. We did our best to talk and keep her comfortable, led by the carer.

Finally, the ambulance arrived. Within moments, the carer left, apologising to the ambulance crew, to us and to the elderly lady for having to rush off, but repeating that she was afraid of losing her job.

I stopped her for a moment and suggested she take my name and number and asked her to call me, or have someone in her organisation call me as I would be more than happy to tell them about her invaluable assistance.

The ambulance crew assessed the elderly lady. She was able to stand and walk with assistance from the crew to the ambulance doors. I gave the ambulance crew her daughter’s details, called her daughter to update her and let her know which hospital they were going to.

Then I went home. I can only assume it was adrenaline as I felt absolutely wired for a couple of hours afterwards and then totally drained.

Other than concern for the elderly lady, my main thought last night was how infuriating it is that someone who literally stops their car to come to the assistance of someone in need should at that moment be worrying that they might lose their job as a result, especially someone who works as a carer, and is better qualified to give assistance than an average member of the public. The carer told me there is no way she could drive past something like that, but now I wonder about the pressures that carers are placed under to get to each appointment. I can imagine a point where a carer sees an emergency but can’t stop because of the potential repercussions on their own life. That is a horrifying thought.

I absolutely realise that as a result of her stopping to help, there was someone left waiting for their carer to arrive and this could have caused distress, but I do believe that an emergency situation can and should take priority. I would hope that any company who arranges care would be grateful and proud that their employee, their representative in the community, would stop and provide first aid and assistance when it is needed most.

I briefly spoke with the manager of the local shop where the young lady who dropped everything to assist works. She had left the shop unattended, with customers waiting for service, but he was immensely, and rightfully I believe, proud of her response.

I feel the contrast is stark. I will add two thoughts which further occurred to me this morning.

For better or worse, everyone nearby and every passer-by who stopped (other than the carer obviously) essentially deferred to me. People asked me what they could do and I assume that is because I was the first person there and perhaps the fact that I am a large man, well over six foot.

Finally in hindsight, I was absolutely caught up by the head wounds. I did not think to ask about pain or injury anywhere else. Both the carer and the ambulance crew asked about this almost straight away, with particular concern about her legs and hips from impact on the ground. As no-one had actually witnessed the fall, we could not have been sure it was from a trip on the curb; it could have been something else. The amount of blood took all my focus. While I think this turned out okay this time, I would hope that if there is a next time, I will remember this.

David Bushe


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