|This is not the actual restaurant, but it captures the layout.|
As regular readers know, we have been nursing our elderly Siberian Husky Jared, back to health for a couple of weeks, and that we will go to fairly extreme means to coax him into eating. Yesterday, despite the snow and intermittent sleet, I needed to get diesel for one of my vehicles and a couple of other incidentals. I decided to stop by a fast food joint and get a few of the dollar menu items without pickles to keep Jared eating. The vet had said that so long as we are feeding him something.....anything, and that his meds are continuing, that she is alright with the practice of feeding him and keeping his appetite alive with fast food. It was lunchtime and I luckily found a parking place. I bought five pickle-less dollar rib sandwiches which Jared likes so well, and are especially useful as his lactobacillus acidophilus and other meds can be fit between the meat and the bread and he eats as if he hasn't noticed. I decided to get myself a salad with chicken. They filled my order and I sat eating the salad with Jared's bag sitting on the table next to me, since the long drive home would make them quite cold anyway.
It was crowded at lunchtime. Lots of people were in and out, most of them buying the larger menu items which are now between five and seven dollars per meal. As I ate my salad, I noticed a man in a wheelchair and his wife navigating the restaurant after their meal. The man had a stump dressed in the manner in which a new amputee does. He had a fairly recent below the knee amputation. His wife pushed him out to the car. Being a registered nurse, I could not help but notice his transfer from the chair to the front seat of the car. With time, locking the wheelchair, balancing on one foot and using the man's own upper body strength to get into the car will be possible, and probably ultimately easy for him. His wife would then fold and out away the wheelchair in their car. However, this wasn't the case this time. Down the man went in the chasm between the wheelchair and the front passenger seat of their car. His wife struggled to get him up, and as the snow fell as he sat on the cold blacktop and she couldn't. No one in the crowded restaurant or going in and out stopped to help as they walked by. I left my food, stuffing my wallet in my coat. "Sir, Ma'am, I'm a nurse, can I help ?" "Yes, please", they nodded. His wife and I gently hoisted him to the car seat. I made sure that he had not been injured in the gentle descent to the parking lot. I explained that in time, and with practice, his upper body strength would permit him to make a wheelchair to car transfer, but that this was early in the recovery process to be doing that. I showed them how his wife could position the chair so that he could pivot with her lifting assistance, until he recovered and developed more upper body strength. They stated that this was the first time they had been out in the two weeks since his amputation surgery. With that, they thanked me, and were on their way. I hoped they could pivot safely at home when they got there or perhaps get the help of one additional person.
I went back in, washed my hands, and finished my salad. To the throngs of people in the restaurant and the parking lot, the man, his wife, and myself had been invisible. It wasn't racism that prevented people from helping them. They were African American, but so were half the people in the restaurant. Perhaps the simple suggestion that a lifetime of eating there would lead to Type II diabetes, and potentially an amputation was too much for them to consider. Anyone could have helped him back into his car, or assessed that he was injured, if he had been, and then called an ambulance. People looked away.
I went home pondering a couple of things. Why would people ignore the acute need of an aging couple in a fairly new car, just a couple of feet from a fast food restaurant ? What kind of a culture are we when a brief hand to an older man is too much trouble ? What kind of a hospital discharges a patient with very little to no instruction on his transfer from bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to car, and precautions to be taken in snow and ice in order to prevent additional injuries during his recovery ?
I know I can't enable everyone by doing everything from buying their meds to doing their laundry. However, we need to be able to do simple things for one another, especially if these are of low risk to us. If we lose our humanity then what right have we got to be celebrating Christmas later this month ?