August 3rd, 2010

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#218 – Dick Bernard: Infrastructure

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

This morning is a hot and sticky one here in the Twin Cities.

An hour or so ago, I was about a mile into my usual 2 1/2 mile walk when I met another walker who seemed to be in some distress. I said “good morning“, and he said “I don’t think I’m going to make it back“, and sat down with a nearby garbage can as his backrest. Sweat was pouring off of him.

We were a ways out in the woods, so to speak, though not that far. “Do you have a cellphone?“, I asked. “No“. Neither did I. Lesson #1.

Where do you live? He gave me his address. Neither of us had a pencil or paper. Lesson #2.

There was nothing I could do for him just staying there, I had no idea when or if there would be other walkers coming by, so I told him I’d go to get help, and I backtracked my route reciting over and over his name and address: “2531 __ Unit __, J__K___

Back at the road and closest neighborhood – perhaps a half mile – I walked to the nearest house and rang the doorbell. No answer. People were at work. Should I go to the next house, or the one across the street, or “catty-corner”?

I was walking across the street when I saw a mini-van driving towards me and I waved it down. Thankfully, it stopped. A young woman, Jenny, with a small child in the back seat rolled down her window and I described the situation and said it looked like a 911 call was needed. She immediately dialed her cell phone. “I’m in Nursing School“, she said, willing to help, and she proceeded to drive down the walking path to the man, who was still sitting beside the garbage can. She talked to the man, all the while on the phone.

An ambulance was on the way. The man’s condition was such that he could get into the car, and she drove back with him to the nearest road. All seemed under control, and I went on…but shortly changed my mind and backtracked to make sure all was okay.

I arrived at the road, and along with Jenny there was a State Highway Patrol and a City Police vehicle, and an ambulance was just pulling up. JK was being assisted from the car to the ambulance, and as I write I have no idea how he is doing: whether it was a heart episode, or dehydration, or something else that he was experiencing when I met him at that garbage can. But I know the situation was extremely well covered by the responders.

All the walk home I kept thinking of lessons learned from this episode, and the primary one was how lucky we are to have an “infrastructure” which includes, especially, people who care about each other, including the ones they do not know; and how important it is to have well trained and available municipal services.

I also was reminded, this morning, that I am part of this infrastructure, and if I am lucky enough to have a cell phone, a pencil and a piece of paper, they will, along with my hat and personal ID, be essential parts of my preparation for my daily walk.

Our infrastructure is also a very fragile thing…easy to imagine that it is really not all that necessary, and a drain on our finances: a good topic for political bashing. But this morning on a local walking path, was evidence to the contrary.