Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Policemen and Motorcycles

Dave: I was reading a book about Canadian-Guatemalan solidarity this afternoon, when I heard the sickening sound of a car accident outside our house. If you've ever been in or witnessed one, you know that the sound is unmistakable.

I grabbed my phone and shoes and sprinted down the lane to the highway that is fifty yards below our house. A damaged car was right at the end of our lane, with a spidered windshield and two people standing in shock. Fifty yards further back, there were a half-dozen people already, standing around two men on the ground. I am grateful for the first-aid training I've had, and how it kicks in during emergencies. A man was calling an ambulance already, but the others were standing back, dumbfounded. Nobody was helping the victims yet.

I dropped beside the two men, and realized they were tourist police officers, and their wrecked motorcycle was in the ditch. I asked the onlookers for water and toilet paper, gave the first man a drink, and wiped the blood out of his eyes. His name was Manuel, and his leg was broken. I kept him calm, telling him what was happening. The other officer was conscious too, and was in the deep gutter (so he was stabilized). His leg was also broken.

Danaya arrived with Zane immediately, bringing our ice packs for their legs, and our first-aid Ziploc. We used maxi-pads to halt the blood flow on their legs and hands, since we didn't have anything else.

Two ambulances and about 10 police trucks were on the scene shortly after. The policemen immediately took all the officers' guns, handcuffs, and equipment (we assume so they weren't stolen by onlookers). The ambulances (volunteer firefighters/paramedics) only had one splint, and no bandaids or other first aid supplies. We tied up their wounds with strips of rags, and put the splint on the first officer. Another officer called for a machete, and cut limbs from a tree to make a second splint for the other officer.

Some of the other officers thanked me for my help, and I just replied that I appreciate their protection for tourists - it's my honour to help.

By this time, there are a few hundred people on the scene, watching or waiting for traffic to resume. The ambulances raced away, followed by the police trucks, spectator vehicles, and tuc-tucs. A few minutes later, it was as though nothing had ever happened, and life goes on in Guatemala.

It's good to be in the right place at the right time, for accidents, not by accident. Solidarity on the street is much more vivid than in the book. They are my neighbours and my friends.


Anonymous said...

Hullo, you 3,
Enjoyed your stories, as always. Thanks for the efforts you make to keep the 'conexions' vivid and real.

If people were to be in an accident, it looks like in front of your house is a good place for it to happen. Who knows the repercussions and reverberations of one's actions? Your loving and informed response will no doubt be remembered. THere are many who, upon hearing the noise of an accident, would stay away. Yes, solidarity is richer - and tougher- to live, and to speak. I am inspired by your story. So much to learn.... thank you.
ps Sounds like the paramedics could use some medical equipment. Did you happen to notice if they had rubber gloves....?

Gary & Lynda said...

Scary stuff Dave. This is why we pray for protection for you guys, so that you aren't the victims. Medical care in these places is scary, it's good you were able to help.