Sunday, September 13, 2009

An incident at the garden

I've mentioned before that there are quite a few homeless people who hang out in the community garden where I've got my little veggie plot. Today, I was watering my radishes when a fellow gardener showed up. "You just missed the excitement," he said.

It turns out that he'd just been at the garden when one of the homeless men came up to him and asked for him (the gardener) to call for an ambulance. The gardener told me, "He looked just fine, didn't look like anything was wrong."

The gardener didn't have a cell phone, but he offered to walk with the man to the ER (there's a hospital only a few blocks away. Then when they'd gone about a block, the man sat down on the sidewalk, chest heaving, and said he wasn't going any further. My fellow gardener then went into the Safeway at the corner and an ambulance was called.

At the end of the story, my fellow gardener again mentioned that the guy "looked fine." Sure, he'd been drinking, but that's pretty normal for the crowd that hangs out at the garden. But he didn't look like anything was "wrong with him." To the gardener's credit, he still offered as much help as he was able to give.

And to my shame, I didn't say anything. I wasn't feeling very good myself and wanted to get out of the sun and on my way. Despite my participation in "Invisible Illness Week," I just nodded and moved on to water my lettuce. I kept thinking, "What does a heart attack 'look like'? Or severe pain? Or a blinding migraine?"

Sigh. I wish I'd said something. Even something as small as, "Well, I look pretty healthy, but actually I've got a chronic illness that sometimes leaves me unable to leave the house. It's not always easy to tell when someone is really sick and needs help. So I'm really glad you did all you could for the guy."

I know I can't be an activist at all times for all causes, but still. I wish I'd handled the situation differently.

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