It was the end of a long evening for Mrs. Austin. She was on her way home from shooting a wedding, the kind of wedding where she worked hard into the dim, bleary hours of early morning. I would see medical tape on her feet the next day from where her shoes had forced them to blister.

It was after this long day and long night that she was witness to a car accident near our house. There were just a couple cars involved, but several people stopped to help. It was apparently bad. After one man was taken from his car by Mrs. A and some other samaritans, Mrs. A proceeded to start CPR on the nearly dead or already dead accident victim. She pumped his chest and blew air into his lungs for a good 20 mins until the call was placed and EMS arrived.

When they did arrive, there was no talk of what happened, no exchange of thanks for taking time to help possibly save someone's life, the EMS dismissed her with a "Thanks, we got it. Go." Mrs. A began to ask questions, wanting to know if the man was going to be ok, but the EMS workers were stalwart. "Just go."

She later tells me the EMS was so curt because in Texas there's a reverse Good Samaritan Law that says you can be held liable for any harm you cause an accident victim. I was incredulous about this to say the least, so I did some checking and found this. I think the understanding is that if you start to give aid, you have to continue to give aid until train help arrives or until the situation changes (ie your safety is somehow compromised.) In for a shilling and all that.

I don't mean to post that last bit to prove a discrepancy in her story, but I think if there's a misunderstanding about the law, people will of course not stop and help.

It reminds me of a story a college friend once told me of her experience at a bus stop in a northern suburb of Denver. We were fellow art students and had graduated high school together and took the same express bus from Broomfield to downtown. One day I don't see her at the stop and later that week I asked what had happened. Turns out an elderly lady was walking across the parking lot, slipped on the ice, hit her face and her broken glasses cut through her cheek. As we all know, faces bleed profusely and so there's this older lady unable to right herself like a turtle on its back and leaking life plasma onto the frozen pavement.

Not one person made a move to help.

The next part is sketchy in my mind and I mean no disrespect by my clouding of the events.

It turns out, she went to help the lady after a few agonizing moments? minutes? of nothing happening from the rest of the crowd. Her hesitancy was due to her either fear of contracting or passing a disease, the kind you can only get from open sores, wounds, bodily fluids. If I remember correctly, she had something (not nefarious but possibly merely unfortunate) that made her initially balk at the idea of rendering aid. In the end she overcame either her fear and was able to right the listing elder and get someone who apparently thought more of themselves to use a phone and call for help.

So, why did everyone at that bus stop hesitate? It was an old lady, bleeding from her face. How utterly sad that something so pathetic doesn't garner any sympathy let alone a rush of assistance from those nearby. In the end a jaded college artist was the one to offer a hand. Was it because people were afraid of gushing blood? Retribution if they slipped again and killed her? Were they too self important to bother? Were they in shock? Maybe they didn't notice...

...and old woman doing a pillbug impression on a growing crimson splatter field.

It's sad we have to have a law that says we as humanity don't hold you responsible for trying to help even if that help makes it worse. People don't want to hand out E's for Efforts, they want to hand out subpoenas and settlements. I'm sorry you were trying to save my life, Miss. But now I have these broken ribs. I hope you like your wages garnished for the next 15 years paying me back.

I understand there's responsibility in action and if you don't know CPR or if you think someone has a broken back, don't move them or touch them. But if a car is on fire or someone has fallen and is bleeding to death, I think any action you take would be considered helpful. What upsets me is the people who don't recognize this and will actually try to sue those whose intentions were at least right.

Jeez, I've gone and blabbered all over myself again. I need to put this soapbox on craigslist.

Carry on.

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