Saturday, 21 March 2009

An Afternoon Drama

“Daddy, where is the lobster? I want to see it!”
“He must of put it back.”
“No, I haven’t,” I replied. I walked over to the tote bag which I use to carry my fishing tackle and pull out a cloth sack. I unpeel it to reveal the dark brown crustacean, claws bound with elastic bands, who was struggling in a vain attempt to escape. It was just as I picked it up to show to the girl that we heard the young man shouting and gesticulating, pointing to something at the base of the harbour wall. All three of us turned to look. I heard the word “man” being shouted and the pattern of black-blue-and pink that the youth was pointing to at the base of the sea wall resolved itself into the shape of a suit-clad person, sprawled out with his feet in the water.

“My God!” I say to the father of the girl. “There’s a man fallen.” Stuffing the lobster back into the tote bag, all three of us start running along the rough stone breakwater. Granton pier is long and it takes us almost a minute to reach the site. I assess the situation. A man, dressed for business in jacket and tie, has fallen off the side of the pier. Beside him is a burst carrier bag, with a ready-made salad scattered from it. Thankfully the fall is not high: the top of the pier is only about ten feet above the level of the water. It is near low tide, otherwise the man would have been in the water completely. As it is, he looks like he has slide down the forty five degree slope of the inner wall with only his feet in the water. A large gash which is steadily oozing blood is visible on the back of his balding head. He attempts to raise himself but slips on the bladderwrack that coats the harbour wall and crashes back down heavily.

“Stay still!” I shout. The man looks disorientated; his movements slow and clumsy. “Stay down and we will come to get you.”
Both I and the girl’s father jump down the initial vertical three feet and start making our way gingerly down the slope. Meanwhile the youth whose calls had attracted out attention is on the phone; he is earnestly entreating the emergency operator to send an ambulance. “Aye, he fallen off the wall…. Granton Pier. He’s cut his head open.”
I spot an old bit of rope that had got lodged in the cracks of the harbour wall and start pulling it out. It is long enough to be useful.
“Here, get the end of it and hold on,” I say to the father. The heavy white rope steadies me as I make my way down the sea wall. I am soon at the side of the fallen man, who is now sitting up.
“Hi, I’m here to help,” I tell him. He looks at me in a glazed way. I give him a quick check-over. Apart from the cut to the head, there is also blood on his left hand. The source is a minor cut. The impact also sprang open the metal wrist band of his watch. The wrist looked swollen. “What is your name?”

The man mutters something I can’t catch.
“What’s that?”
He speaks again. “Joseph.”
“Okay Joseph. How are you feeling? Reckon you can move up the wall?”
Joseph nods.
“Good man,” I smile. “Hold on to this rope and we’ll help you up.”
The girl’s father tightens his grip and Joseph and I start creeping up the side of the breakwater. The seaweed coating the wall is extremely slippery and it is an effort to support Joseph and make progress. But soon the girl’s father has hold of Joseph’s hand and they made it onto the top of the breakwater. I follow after. Joseph, still wobbly, is attempting to stand up.
“Joseph, can you sit down please?” I ask. “We don’t want you falling over again.”
More hands help Joseph to a kneeing position. A small crowd has now gathered. Along with several younger teenagers, a lady with a black Labrador is also looking on.
I give Joseph another check-over. Focus has now returned to his eyes but he still looks a bit dazed. He can move the fingers on his left hand so the wrist is not broken.
“Joseph, I’m taking the watch off your wrist. Can you put it in your pocket?” He does so. Time to attend to the cut. It looks nasty: a five centimetre crescent from which blood is oozing slowly with a lump the size of a duck’s egg already rising under it. I take off my pullover, intending to use it as a pressure pad but it isn’t really suitable, being large and heavy. I eye the scarf worn by the dog-walking lady.
“I’m really sorry to have to ask, but can I have your scarf?” The lady complies cheerfully.
“Joseph, you have a cut on the back of your head. I’m going to have to apply pressure to it.” Joseph nods and I apply the scarf to the back of his head, with my left hand on Joseph’s broad forehead in order to keep things steady.

The next fifteen or so minutes pass quite cheerfully, considering the circumstances. Joseph tells us that he has had these blackouts since childhood. The lady remarks that first aid is one of those things that she knew she ought to know but never got around to it. The girl is shushed by her father on several occasions when she starts to chatter on but in reality she wasn’t doing any harm. I compliment the youth on his reactions.
“You were wondering what I was shouting about weren’t ya?” he grins. “Thought I’d caught a big fish or somethin’!”
We hear the sirens but can’t see the ambulance.
“I don’t want to go to hospital,” says Joseph. “I’ve had enough of those places.”
“Well they can’t make you if you don’t want to,” opines the lady.
“Joseph, I think you ought to,” I tell him. “You are going to need stitches in this cut.”
“Oh really,” says the lady. “I haven’t seen it.”
“It’s about two inches long,” the girl’s father tells her. He continues. “Joseph, what was in your bag?”
“A salad and some chocolate,” Joseph replies.
“Shall we get it for you?”
I veto the plan. “Don’t. It’s very slippery down there and it’s not worth the risk. If it was Joseph’s wallet or something important, maybe.”
“We don’t want you to be the next one Daddy,” pipes up the girl. We all laugh.
“Well, at least the ambulance is on it’s way.”
“There it is,” shouts the youth. “It’s gone to the wrong pier!” Along with the other boys, he starts waving frantically. The fast response 4x4 reverses from it position on the other side of the harbour, about four hundred metres away and drives back onto the road.
Even so, it is another good five minutes before the paramedic is with us.
“He’s taking his time,” says the lady. “You would thing he would jog or something.”
“He’s doing his health and safety,” I reply. “All he knows is that somebody has slipped off the pier. He doesn’t want to be next.”

Another minute goes by.

“That’s a stroll!” exclaims the lady, outraged.
She has a point. The paramedic does not seem to be in a hurry. Eventually he reaches us. I give him my handover and assessment of the situation and he speaks to Joseph for a wee while, in a rather slow and loud voice.
The scarf is returned to the lady. I’m gratified to see a large clot has formed over the wound.
“That’s brilliant,” says the paramedic. “I’ll take over from here.”
And that’s it. We are dismissed. We give Joseph our farewells and best wishes and return to our lives.

Photo credit: Bob Jones

No comments: