News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


Ill and a long way from his home

The man on the floor was in bad shape as we rounded the end of an aisle in a local department store. His eyes rolled up, he jerked uncontrollably and a froth of saliva ran freely from his mouth.

"Help me," a smallish Hispanic woman said, looking up from the floor where she attempted to restrain the man while placing what looked like a small child's pants in his mouth.

She didn't want him to swallow his tongue, and she didn't want him to harm himself.

A Florence Nightingale?

Hardly! Her good intentions were all wrong. But neither she nor I knew that until I called 911 and said that we needed help.

I reported that the man appeared to be having a seizure, but I wasn't sure. The dispatcher asked me a series of questions about the victim then said:

  • Don't put anything in his mouth.
  • Don't try to restrain him.
  • Move him into the clear where he can't harm himself.

    The man was Hispanic and spoke no English. The woman administering what she thought was first aid said she knew little about him. The other two women with him spoke no English. But they all apparently had some loose connection.

    We left shortly after a fire department paramedic arrived. The unidentified man was sitting up looking bewildered, the worst over of what might not have been his first seizure.

    Our first thoughts were for his recovery and if he had medication. Then we wondered about the route his group took to Decatur and reasoned that they were recent arrivals. Their shopping cart was piled high, an indication the trio may have come with few possessions.

    But most of all, Regina and I reviewed what we learned and wondered how scary it must have been for him to be in a foreign country, probably illegally, ill, poor and unable to speak English.

  • Tom Wright Tom Wright
    DAILY Executive Editor

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