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Compassion and lack thereof

Here I am trekking up the East-side of Harlem River drive in my hybrid ZipCar..coming back from a day of shopping along the North Shore of Long Island.  I am bopping along singing way off key to Katy Perry’s Firework when I glance to the left side of W179th & Amsterdam Ave exit and see a woman literally falling out of the driver side waving and asking for help. No one is stopping. As I move to the left lane my eye gaze meets hers.

Now, I was not looking to be a superhero or even a roadside assistance nurse so the first thing that I say is “oh shit” and pulled over. As I threw on my hazard lights and put the car in park I didn’t realize that I’m jogging towards the woman with  cell phone in my hand already dialing 911. By the time I reach her, she is grabbing her chest and saying “I am having a heart attack.” Before she finishes her sentence I am yelling at the 911 operator “send an ambulance there is a motorist having a heart attack on the Harlem River Drive.”

I am not even going to try to pretend that I was calm as a cucumber…. I was the opposite of calm. Was my voice high pitched? Yep. Did I loose all sense of intelligence? Yep. The 911 operator was asking me where were located and I think I am telling her the spot but she keeps saying that she can not locate us. Every time the operator says that I happen to look at the woman who is now by this time slumped over her steering column.

The worse of it all? The passing motorists screaming and cussing at me for being in their way. It took the ambulance and fire department about 11 minutes to get to our location. Within those  11 minutes, I was yelled at, cursed at and honked at. This was the first time in a long time that I was absolutely terrified, coupled with feeling helpless and alone.

As the firefighters and EMS crew jump over the median towards us, tears were running down my face. What made me start cry the hardest was at the point where the woman is being pulled out her car by the EMS crew she still had enough strength and compassion to reach out touch my arm and say “thank you.”

For 11 minutes I stood on the side of the road sad not only for the woman in front me clearly in medical need  but sad that my fellow New Yorkers did not/could not have compassion for another human being in need. Is the world really that cold and uncaring? Today my heart is exceptionally heavy.

However, there is a silver lining – the woman did survive. My Dad and my friend David called me a hero. No, I am not a hero. I am just a human being and I wish we all were.



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