A young man faints on a bus, not an unusual occurrence but slightly more out of the blue when I was the one who had to catch his fall.
On the way to an event I got on a packed single decker and took my usual position: slouching against the window, headphones firmly in, music turned up loud to drown out my fellow passengers. As the sun set over Canary Wharf and the bus pulled into North Greenwich Station, the young man beside me fell forward into my arms deadly white and with glassy eyes. Luckily I caught him and managed to gently help him to the floor. I shouted for someone to tell the driver that there was someone very unwell on the bus, most people looked around hoping that the ‘someone’ I was referring to was not them.
The driver was eventually informed, people clambered over me and the barely conscience teenager (who was so embarrassed) was trying his best to stand and get out of the way mid-faint. Another passenger came to help try and either get the kid on the floor so as not to damage himself. The woman peering over the seat behind us exclaimed “oh, look, his hand is spasming” in a tone that made it sound like she was watching her favourite TV show where something really exciting was happening. Most passengers made their way off the bus, having a good old nosey whilst other people kept trying to push their way on, as no one that had been evacuated had bothered to tell them that there was a medical situation onboard.
The middle doors that we were beside opened, a woman, also in her mid twenties, asked if we were OK and hopped on. She obviously had a much more calming demeanour than me, or maybe my fainter had simply ran out of steam, but she managed to get him in the recovery position without him resisting. Another man in the crowd offered us packets of sugar in case he was diabetic, like him. He then asked if any of us were first aiders, the answer was no so took the initiative to head into the station and find one.
A woman came by and asked if we were looking for a first aider, we asked if she was one she replied “no” stood around and watched the ‘action’ until I told her that if she was not a medical professional or useful to kindly ‘fuck off’ and give the passed out teenager some space.
A TFL man came onboard and cleared everyone out of the way, the boy came to gradually and panicked, surrounded by three strangers holding his hand, protecting his head and giving him encouragement that he was going to be alright.
At this point a woman who I hadn’t even noticed was on the bus frustratedly asked the driver if the bus could get going now as we had made her late. We looked at her in disbelief, the guy was barely back in the land of the living. The driver explained to her that the bus wouldn’t be going anywhere until the sick man had been seen by the ambulance crew and that she had to get on anther bus. She had a better suggestion asking if we could just take the man off the bus so she could get on the road. The driver firmly confirmed that he would not be kicking a sick man out on the street so that she could stick to her schedule and ushered her off the bus.
Continuing to come round, embarrassment took over the fainter again and, though still completely colourless, was insistent that he wanted to sit up in one of the bus seats. Practically carried by the driver and male passenger who has come to my aid, he sat swaying green and apologetic. The other two people that had helped went on their way giving him well wishes. I stayed until the burly tattooed ambulance man arrived and whisked him off to the hospital. I am not sure what happened to him after that but when I bid him farewell he was in capable hands, able to talk and almost stand so I am sure that he made a full recovery and had just about gotten over his embarrassment.
Throughout this mild emergency I encountered many types of people, the majority did not want to get involved with the situation casually minding their own business, then there were the more interesting characters:
- Those who relish in drama but do nothing productive – they treat life like a live action show and do nothing to participate, like the woman who peered over the seat, the non first aider lady and many other rubber-neckers.
- The apathetic – those who kept banging on the bus window to get the driver’s attention, who moaned about having to wait 6 minutes for another bus and the lady who refused to move.
- The problem solvers – me, the man who helped me catch the fainters fall, the lady that jumped on the bus and made the teen feel comfortable, the diabetic gent who hunted down a first aider and the girl who leapt up to donate her bottle of water.
The thing that struck me most about these different types of people was that not one of us was a first aider.
I like to think of myself as a doer so this is something I am going to rectify in the near future and is something I think most of us should consider. We always hope there is someone else there to handle a difficult situation, whether it happens to us or someone else, but realistically we have to make ourselves that someone. If you are interested in doing a First Aid course, St John’s Ambulance and Red Cross offer a variety of options throughout the UK.
*Main image by Pablo de la Pena from Shed Collective