Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What has society come to?

A medical student who corresponds with me wrote the following. It has been edited for length.

She was shopping at a mall with her husband and their children.

As I walked underneath the escalators, I heard a horrific sound. I looked up and saw a body cartwheeling down. I ran to front of the escalator to push the stop button. An 80 or 90 year old gentleman was lying partly on and partly under his walker. He seemed unconscious with blood all over the place. I said "Sir, sir," saw his fingers move, and called 911.

A black man from the top of the escalator made eye contact with me and came running down to see how he could help. He hesitated, his face and body language screaming fear, but he came over. He knew he had to once we made eye contact because I was the only one actually doing something.

A security guard who was heading to work arrived. He had no gloves, no radio, nothing. Why wasn't anyone from security coming? What's the point of security cameras? Wasn't there anyone watching? I turned around to see who else could help. About a dozen people were just standing there with their cell phones taking pictures and videos. Not a soul asked me if they could call 911. In fact when I called 911 a second time, the dispatcher asked me if there were more people with me because I had placed the only two calls.

The old man’s wife came down after staring from the second floor for what felt an eternity, and she is just like “ok whatever”—showing no concern. She clearly had not been on the escalator with him.

My husband, a surgeon, joined me, and within couple minutes the paramedics finally arrived. With every drop of blood dripping from the gentleman face and hands all I could think of was that he must be anticoagulated. I was worried about a head bleed, C-spine, ribs, and maybe even hips. People gathered on the second floor with their cell phones pointing and looking down. I lost it. I dropped a few F-bombs. My kids showed more concern than any other person.

Some research has shown that despite training, people still will not help. No one demonstrated an ounce of concern except the black guy who was freaking out and saying, "Oh Jesus, have mercy."

Mall security finally showed up wearing their blue first aid gloves. The victim was still on the escalator at an incline facing down, bleeding, stuck within the walker, and the walker stuck at angle to the side of escalator and impossible to mobilize.

The old guy recovered consciousness prior to paramedics arriving. While awaiting the paramedics, I heard his wife say to a security guard, "There were no warning signs about walking devices on the escalator." I couldn't believe it. I hope my sweet old gentleman is ok. As he awoke, He smiled at me.

Even the paramedics had trouble extricating him, and paramedics do this every day.

As the gentleman was loaded on the stretcher, people still had their phones out despite me cursing them 15 minutes before in Spanish and English. A Hispanic guy was going to town with the video few feet away from me and channeling his reporting self. I could hear him describing in Spanish what was going on and even saying (to the video) that he believes my husband and I know each other because we have good work dynamics (insert eye roll emoji here).

Not even a 90 year old face down on an escalator with a walker stopped people from doing their phone thing. So sad.

What is wrong with society? What kind of world do we live in?


artiger said...

As appalling as this story is, it's not surprising. Next time you go into a patient's hospital room during daytime hours, take a look at what's on the TV. Most likely it's going to be some kind of courtroom TV, a "reality" show, or something like Jerry Springer. Like it or not, that's a lot of who we take care of.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Artiger, I agree. Not long ago there was a story about a guy who came upon the scene of an automobile crash and instead of helping to extract the victims, he stuck his phone inside the car and shot video.

Anonymous said...

II Timothy 3. Not surprising.

Libby said...

I hope Canada doesn't get that bad. Alas it most likely is on occasion. When I've come across someone hurt or witnessed someone becoming hurt there have been more assistance than cell phones. Unfortunately the cell phones come out when it is obvious that the person(s) are getting some form of aid. At least in my experience there have been more support than hinderance from bystanders.

Sad what our societies have become.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lord, send help, looks like we need it again.
I have, luckily, never run into anything even remotely like this situation. I cannot imagine what those in the medical field feel when they run into this type of situation. I could at least understand if people did not want to touch or move a person, with liability the way it is these days, but to not even call 911 before they start filming is just plain scary.

And where is a shut off for an escalator?

Skeptical Scalpel said...

"Next time you ride on an Escalator it is a good idea to learn where the emergency shutoff buttons are in case you need to stop the escalator. The emergency shutoff buttons should be at the top and bottom of each escalator. The button should be on the right side of the escalator when facing the stairs." From

William Reichert said...

Two years ago I was riding my bike in the country. All of sudden I went airborn. I came down. Didn't feel too bad but noticed a lot of blood dripping out of a wound on my knee.Big gash. A car stopped.
"Are you ok?"
"Well. You are bleeding pretty bad. You should go to the hospital."l
I asked where he was going. He was headed towards the hospital. "Could you give me a ride?"
"No." "You might get blood on my car. You are bleeding pretty bad."
OK. Thanks

Skeptical Scalpel said...

William, it looks as though you encountered someone not many meet--The Bad Samaritan.

William Reichert said...

In all fairness to the people doing nothing at the scene of the old man's fall, I want to remind you of something I learned a long time ago. "Above all , do no harm".
If you dont know what to do , maybe it it is best to do nothing.
If the man had a serious injury, trying to move him could make the situation worse. If the paramedics had trouble "extricating him", I wonder what could have been accomplished by a group
of untrained shoppers having a go.It probably would not have been pretty. Also it could be that each person in the crown was waiting for someone else to take charge. Someone who knew what to do.
I remember when I was in med school my neurology instructor told me a story . While leaving a movie theater, he came across
a group of people trying to stop a man from seizing.He said "I watched.They were holding him down. trying to restrain him. Trying to to adjust his neck to keep him breathing. Actually they were , without knowing it, trying to kill him."

Anonymous said...

Got a point. They do train people how to do BLS, and one of the first things is getting them to not get in the way, go call 911, get an AED, anything other than be in the way.

The very least they can do is use the cell phones to call 911 and not as a camera.

Btw, since you never know who is "ok" and who isn't, sometimes just getting them to move on after calling an ambulance is a better thing.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree that if people don't know what to do then it is best they don't get involve as they can cause serious harm. However, that is no substitute for taking a phone out to take a pic/video. Some people may get freaked out by the blood, I get that. My husband (a trauma surgeon) was elsewhere in the mall when this incident happened and came over after I notified him. Even prior to him arriving I knew that any attempt to mobilize the gentleman would not be prudent. When my husband arrived, he agreed the situation was not safe. The bigger issue is the lack of genuine response. The fact I ran to stop the escalator and was on the floor trying to get any response from a bleeding elderly man and no one even asked if there was anything they could do, THAT is what makes my blood boil.

Some twitter comments describe similar behaviour of people taking pics/videos in an accident scene or even during a cardiac arrest. A retired medic shared he was seeing this already 3.5 years ago. Where is the respect for a fellow human being and their loved ones? Has the societal norm become that we just go through the motions, being completely apathetic, and human dignity is out the window?

To take this a little further... In the U.S. people tend to be very good about judging appropriateness of involvement, if they truly have no idea they don't roll up their sleeves to get to work. I think that is a product of historically having a very responsive 911 system and is worth looking into these beliefs and what role, if any, they play on bystanders getting involved. You know, if called, help will be on the way, right? That is not the case everywhere in the world where anyone will try to jump in to *do something* for better or worse, because *they* may be the victim's only chance of a ride to a hospital or a tourniquet. I'm more worried about someone abroad exacerbating a victim's injuries by trying to incompetently help them than that happening with the same frequency in the U.S., where likely they will have 911 on speaker doing as instructed. Taking a phone out to take a picture or video when someone is experiencing an emergent crisis is inexcusable. I don't care if there is an entire trauma team in a public setting trying to help, some things ought to simply not be accepted as a societal norm. I see policy in the future.

William Reichert said...

What is your position on people taking pictures of police shooting people or fighting with them? Or of the press taking a picture of a demonstration that has gotten out of hand.? Or taking a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald getting shot in Dallas Or of a camera recording a man beating up his wife in an elevator? Are these events examples of "an emergent crisis " that is also "inexcusable" to record on video too?

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I have no problem with people recording the police. If the police are acting appropriately, they should have no problem with people recording them too.

Surveillance videos are everywhere. Don't punch your wife ever, but if you do, don't complain if it was caught on video.

Oswald? News cameras were rolling. should they no have shown the footage?

H said...

Life is not a movie: Don't privacy laws apply?

Ask the passive onlooker to stop filming and help?

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