Well, that's not completely true. I didn't see him get hit by the car, I merely saw a line of cars slamming on their brakes and a guy lying in the middle of Route 22, legs in the fast lane and torso in the middle lane. It happened as Deirdre and I were coming home from seeing the very funny Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
It was around 10:30 PM, so it was dark out, and we were turning off of 22. For those that don't know, Rt. 22 is a bit of a death trap, one of those old highways where people are pulling out of parking lots into traffic zipping by at 55 MPH. There are really no acceleration lanes, you simply must get up to 55 before the car behind you slams into you - it's a good plan.
There is a 3-foot tall cement divider between the 3 lanes going in each direction, and apparently this guy was crossing all six lanes by running, hopping and running some more. However, he failed to account for the fact that there is no shoulder between the fast lane and the cement divider on each side, so as soon as you commit to the crossing, you better make it.
DD was driving, and as she was slowing to exit off of 22, I asked if her brakes were bad because they were squealing. I was sitting in the passenger seat, and as we were turning off, she noticed it wasn't her brakes, but the brakes of three cars in the left lane. I looked through the driver's side window as we turned, and for a split second - I saw a guy sprawled out on the pavement, lit by the headlights of the stopped cars.
My Boy Scout training and the instincts it ingrained took over and I told Deirdre to stop. She pulled over just a few feet down the street onto which we had just turned off. I tossed my sweatshirt into the back and hopped out of the car as D told me to call 911 and get the license plate of the car that hit him. As I was walking around from the passenger side of our car, heading towards the back and onto to the highway - the car that hit the guy pulled around him and drove off slowly. I didn't see it as I was trying to both call 911 on my cell phone and cross into traffic.
As I walked over, I saw the driver of the last of the three cars that stopped short on the phone with the police already, so I put my phone away and walked up to the man. He was short and Hispanic, with what looked like two long braids extending out from his dark, black hair. He was laid out on his back and was struggling to focus, but he basically wasn't moving.
I saw a line of blood slowly dripping out of the corner of his mouth, as his head was to the side. I looked him over quickly and was was very thankful that it was the only blood I saw. It was slow - like the amount of blood you would see if you got punched in the face - but still not just red saliva - definitely blood. I remember how vividly the red stood out in a line running down his face - sideways, from the corner of his lips to a spot halfway back to his ear, where a drop or two had fallen off.
I thought to myself that both he and I were lucky because he had no catastrophic injuries, and I was wearing a white shirt that I really like - which would have been ruined if I had had to use it to stem any bleeding. Thanks, guy who got hit by a car, for not being too bloody.
I talked to him, trying to get a sense of how badly he was hurt - but he was in shock. That's when I noticed two things - 1) the sideview mirror sitting about 20 feet farther down the road - which was probably what clipped him - and 2) the hole in his shirt just under his arm on his ribs - at the exact height where a side mirror would have hit him.
Now I was a little scared. His legs were moving slowly, and he was starting to clear up a bit. I was afraid there might be some serious external damage to his torso. So, I asked him again if anything hurt (maybe not a great move - in hindsight - to try to snap out of his shock and feel his pain, but I had to make sure there was nothing that needed immediate attention). I wanted to know if there was anything wrong I wasn't seeing and I also wanted to distract him long enough to check out the hole in his shirt and see if there were any ribs sticking out.
He could only muster out the words "... my mouth... ", but it was enough time to see there was no external bleeding and my shirt was again safe. I bent over and talked to him for about 30 seconds, reassuring him that help was coming - when a man that spoke Spanish came over and was able to ask him where he was coming from. The guy started replying back in Spanish - so I figured he was at least in good hands in that respect.
I looked up to notice the now quite large backup of traffic that was edging quite close to all of us in the middle of the two left lanes. This was clearly something that needed to be dealt with. I directed the woman who called 911 to turn her car at an angle to block both left lanes from oncoming traffic. Then, I started waiving cars past on the right lane as people were rolling down their window to ask if somebody called 911. At this point, a huge SUV was trying to merge into the right lane from the middle - as it had crept up over the last minute or two. I was stunned as the car, which dwarfed me with its monstrous wheels, pulled within two feet of the man's extended arms, window down and driver hanging out.
I was able to get the large vessel to finally turn away and move along without crushing either of us, and soon the cars were moving along, slowly but smoothly. In the distance, the lights of a police car were flashing as it sped to meet us. The cop cut across two right lanes, forcing people off onto the exit road Deirdre and I had originally turned off.
Within three minutes of the original call, the cops started arriving, and the ambulance was only another few minutes behind them. They took Deirdre's contact information, as she was the only person that saw the color of the car that hit him - and then we left as there was nothing left to do. It's funny that after all those years of first aid training and drills on how to respond to accidents - all I really could do was tell the guy not to move. I thought I could elevate his feet, the standard Boy Scout shock treatment - but I wasn't sure of anything was broken and I didn't want to move him until the EMTs came with a board.
To wrap up this long tale - I'll note that this is the only time in my life I've had to stop and help out in an accident. I long ago made a promise to myself that I would always stop and help if I saw trouble. Many people would help, but they just don't know what to do. I am no expert in the matter and I am not an EMT or anywhere close - but I am pretty levelheaded in those situations. It's just that its never happened like that before.
Final added bonus: As DD and I were walking back to the car (she had parked it and walked over to the scene), another guy who had pulled over walked back to his car with us. He told us that he saw the cars stopped from the other side of the highway, but didn't see the one that hit the guy. I'm not sure why he pulled around to get out and look, especially since his wife was still in the parked car. However, he did tell us that the reason why the person in the car who hit the man drove away - "They had to be an illegal. They can't get caught, so they drove off." I pointed out that this was not necessarily true - but he reiterated - "The driver wouldn't get in trouble - the man who got hit was crossing illegally. (which was true) It had to be an illegal."
I again replied that while I could not be sure of the immigration status of the driver, I was more likely to think it was simply a person who, in a moment of intense stress, made a poor judgment. I can think of many people who would freak out if they hit someone on a highway so hard it knocked off their side mirror. While I would hope that they would stop anyway, in situations like that - people have a tendency to look to others for cues on how to act. If the driver was stunned while his or her passenger said to just get out of there, I could see the driver leaving, even if they normally wouldn't.
He was not convinced. Anti-immigration fever! Catch It!
For future reference, if you ever are in need of medical attention, know that people will follow the cues of others around them - so to get help, ask for help from specific people, not help in general. If a person is singled out, they are much more likely to respond. Its the same reason that you don't ask for "someone to call 911", you point to one person and tell them to dial 911. In an emergency, people will do what you tell them to do, especially if you say it with authority. For more on this, read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Well, you should read it anyway - it really spells out how the mind works and why we make the decisions we do.
And that ends today's lesson on dealing with emergencies, Boy Scout style. You're welcome.
I also offer my thoughts to the random guy who got hit by a car today. I hope you have medical insurance, but guessing by the fact you were walking home from work at 10:30 PM on a Saturday night by jumping over a median on a busy highway - I don't think its likely that you do. May your injuries heal quickly and not cost much. And if they do, may you move to any of the other western, industrialized countries that actually offer their citizens universal health care. Canada's pretty nice right now as the weather warms up - and they're in a good mood as the hockey playoffs are underway.