Recently when at a local shopping center with my 2 children aged 6 and 10, I came across a young woman who was extremely pregnant and looking distressed. Upon asking if she was alright or needed any help, she replied that her waters had just broken!
Sending my kids to a play area (only a few meters away and in sight at all times) I helped the woman to a bench and went to a shop to ask for security (who must have first aid training and may be able to help) and a cleaner to come down. After talking with the lady (Who I will call R) I found that her husband had recently passed away in a car wreck and her baby was her first.
Security called for an ambulance and arranged for R’s car to be kept safe until someone could collect it for her. They couldn’t have been more helpful.
However, the cleaner arrived and immediately started making snide remarks about pregnant women, single mothers and the extra work that R was causing him! As if R wanted to go into labor in public.
As he was complaining R’s contractions started and came on hard and fast. I asked if there was anywhere R could go for some privacy until the ambulance got here. The hospital was 35 minutes away and I was told (and this is a direct quote), “If she wants privacy she should just go home.” If she could I dare say she would have!
However the contractions were 2 minutes apart and I was quietly asking the security officer if there were any doctors nearby that could help.
Poor R was facing the likelihood of giving birth in public, in a shopping center and with no one qualified to help and a cleaner who had then started to yell at her for making a mess (unintentional as it was) and threatening what he would do if she, “…had that little bastard there and causes more work!”
Fortunately security took the cleaner away before anything else could be said (or done to him be some irate passers-by, who just kept passing by R). The ambulance arrived and took R to the hospital where she safely gave birth to a lovely little girl. I have received a lovely thank you letter from not only R but her parents as well thanking me for being the only person who stopped to help R when she really needed it. I am still asking myself, “Why I was the only one?” 0608-11
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The new mom wrote you a thank you note when she had a newborn baby! That’s one grateful woman! Of course she had reason to be.
An event not like this as to the birth issue but to the people watching happened to me when my boys were young. We were at the beach and my two boys were playing at the waters edge when I took off my glasses to get some sun (I have horrible vision). I kept an eye on them but apparently my oldest took off and another boy that looked remarkable like him joined my youngest. To my eyes it still looked like my two sons were still playing until I put my glasses back on and realized that my oldest wasn’t there. I was in a panic and scanning the water and questioning my youngest as to where his brother was as the crowded beach looked on. I finally just started pointing at people to go to the parking lot and look for him there, others to scan along the beach and others to join me in a line in the water looking for him. He was finally found down the beach playing with another boy but the point is that nobody did anything until I started to tell them what to do and then they all jumped into action. I think that in many cases people want to help but just don’t think well in emergencies or don’t know what to do until told. I would imagine that most of the people that passed by would have willingly helped if only directed as to what to do. At least that is what my experience was and what I want to believe about people.
Kudos to OP for keeping a clear head and for doing the right thing.
Shame, SHAME on the cleaner! I hope he was canned.
Reminds me of those situations I’ve heard of anymore where someone is lying in a store bleeding to death and others, instead of helping, take pictures of the body with their cellphones. 🙁
It is terrible to think that no one else helped. How wonderful though that you stayed with her and made sure that everything was ok. You prove that there are still some special people in the world who really do care.
I work in a medical office, and recently had to take my Healthcare Professional Level CPR class. This was something that was part of the training: when you’re in a crowd, and an emergency happens, people often take on the psychological attitude of a mob, to wit, everybody else assumes that somebody else will take responsibility. If you just say, “Somebody call 911!” everybody will think, “well, somebody else will do it. We were taught to point to somebody and say, “You, in the red shirt, call 911. You, with the hat, come here and do X or Y while I’m doing Z.” Single the person out, and suddenly that diminishment of personal responsibility goes away, and they start thinking like an individual again.
I’m not sure about the psychology of it all (I’m not a nurse or doctor; I’m the office manager, and computer guru). All I know is what I was taught: take charge of the situation, single out a person or persons to do the jobs that need to be done, and they will respond. If you just say, “somebody help me,” they won’t usually do it.
As for the obnoxious cleaner, well, working in a medical office has taught me that some people are just selfish, regardless of circumstances. You can’t MAKE them have empathy, you can’t make them change. all you can do it ignore them as best you can, and keep them from making a bad situation worse. I am sure my next comment will reserve me a seat in E-Hell, but I don’t think I can change my own response. In an emergency like the OP described, sometimes the only sensible reaction is to say, “If you can’t help, then shut up and go away.” Helping the person in need trumps being polite. Maybe that’s just me.
Last: Kudos to the OP. an emergency is always scary. been there, done that, several times. MANY MANY people can’t keep their wits about them in such a situation. good for you for keeping your composure and taking charge.
That cleaner is a misogynist pig of the worst kind. I’d have had trouble keeping my language civil. Kudos to the OP.
Hi Everyone, OP here. Thanks for the positive responses but I thought I should clear up a few of the questions that have been raised.
Yes the cleaner was reported to management by myself and several other people, and I have not seen him again.
In Australia (where this happened), to the best of my knowledge, there are no “Good Samaritan” laws.
And to top it all off, one of the passer bys was ( we found out at the hospital) one of the mid wives that would be looking after R.
Just one more perspective on why people didn’t stop to help. I like to think of myself as a decent human being who would try to help someone in a situation like this. I’d certainly want to. But I’ve also witnessed myself in a few emergency situations, and although I’m usually a very calm, rational person, my response to emergency situations tends to be hysterical giggling. Husband nearly chokes to death at the dinner table? I’m giggling while my brother-in-law heimlichs him and saves the day. A friend collapses inexplicably in the parking lot? I’m giggling while other friends are sitting her down, calling the ambulance, etc. It’s horrifically embarrassing, and all the more so because I know that there’s someone who really needs help and attention, and I’m just hoping to stay enough out of the way to avoid distracting the people who are actually doing something useful.
So, in addition to the other reasons others have pointed out, some people may have wanted to help, but known that they simply had nothing useful to offer.
“And to top it all off, one of the passer bys was ( we found out at the hospital) one of the mid wives that would be looking after R.”
Wow now THAT, I do not understand. If I were a midwife and I saw a woman going into labor in public, I would certainly offer my help. She had the expertise and the knowledge to be of more assistance than most of the passers-by.
Wouldn’t it be funny, then, if the reason the midwife passed her by was that she was responding to the exact same emergency–by rushing to the hospital?
Why didn’t the OP tell the janitor to stuff it?!?
I personally would have stopped and tried to talk to the mom to take her mind off of the pain. I also would have offered to drive her to the hospital.
The custodial arts staffer was rude. His comments were not needed.
However, how many people would be HAPPY about the possiblity of cleaning up a STRANGERS AFTERBIRTH for min wage?? A dear friend of mine who has a slight mental handicap wanted to work at the mall like his other friends when we were all in highschool. The only application that was accepted of his was for janitorial/maintenance staff. We often chatted or even took our breaks together. I was truly horrified by what he made, how his superiors and the mall patrons treated him, and some of the tasks/duties he had to perform. It is truly hard to imagine some of the messes he had to clean in public bathrooms – I’m talking bodily things smeared on walls – really bizzarre disgusting human messes that no one in their right mind would create at home, even if they were very ill. I watched young mothers at teh food court allow their toddlers to destroy an entire area, change the kid’s diaper, and then just up and leave – mess, food, dirty diaper – for some one else to deal with. Yes, his out loud comments were VERY WRONG. I see everyone in the comments supporting that he was wrong. However, I am very certain that if I thought I was going to have to clean up a stranger’s afterbirth for such a small wage, I’m not sure I’d have been able to hold my tongue either, especially if I’d spent the day picking up dirty diapers and food unwatched children had strewn. I find it hard to believe that myself and the janitor are the only people in the entire world that would be so disgusted by a stranger’s afterbirth that some sort of comment would escape.
OP- Kudos to you for helping this young woman. I wouldn’t have had any idea what to do for her other than get mall security. She’s lucky you were in the right place at the right time. All very pregnant women look like they are miserable and ready to have that baby NOW to me! I have the feeling your kids are going to grow up understanding the concept of civic duty under your care and I’m so happy you were able to help her. =)
I don’t have anything new to add to the responses already given, but to the people who have said that it is better to be specific in asking for help, YES. I will gladly help, but my mind works slowly and especially so when under pressure. I am definitely not a take-charge type.
Having someone in crisis stand near me shouting “Help!” will send me into a panic of “OMG! What should I do?” Then I will stand there worse than useless, in the way. Much later, I would think, “Of course, I *should have* done X.” However, if you give me specific instructions – “You! We have a woman in labor. Call 911 for an ambulance.” – I will do exactly that.
OP was very helpful in this situation! Good job!
On the subject of the mall janitor…my brother has some mental health issues, and at one time was a janitor in a shopping mall. He announced to our family that he is forbidden to speak to any shoppers or retailers while he is working. It was a bit funny, knowing my brother. He told us, “If you see me working in the XXX Mall, I will not talk to you or greet you. Don’t be offended, the janitors are not allowed to interact with customers.” Actually, this seems like a good policy. Some might talk more than work, others could be extremely annoying if they became too familiar in the building. Best to establish the restrictions at the start!
To add, this story brings back memories. I went into labor at a public meeting, with a couple of hundred people present. Seated by my friend, I merely whispered, “I think my water broke.” She jumped up, wrapped a coat around me and we walked across the entire roomful — the only way out of the meeting area. A OB nurse, and two EMTS followed, they had a good hunch what was happening. These people were very, very helpful! Someone called my husband, and we were at the hospital in about an hour. I remember one of the EMTS had me lay on her coat, spread over a sofa. I kept saying, “I don’t want to birth on your coat!” (like the cat birthing in the clothes hamper…)
The building principal, a 40+ year old bachelor, was a nervous wreck…he was one of the “helpers” I could have done without. He did not want them to use the building’s towels or blankets for the “mess.”
Likewise, this was probably a new experience for the mall janitor and perhaps he was a little traumatized, but that is still no excuse for the verbal abuse. NOT what a woman in labor needs!
And now I know why my mother would not go out in public in her last month of pregnancies. I would rather be in familiar surroundings at labor’s onset!
Thanks for reminding me of this part of my life. I must tell my third child, now a 17-year old girl, that she was almost born in a school gymnasium!
V while I agree nobody would be happy about cleaning up afterbirth (which, I might remind you the cleaner actually wouldn’t have had to clean as the woman gave birth in a hospital) there is never ANY need to speak to someone the way that cleaner spoke to that poor lady. I can’t understand how you think casting aspersions on her marital status has anything to do with her situation or is in any way defensible.
Earlier this year, my partner and I witnessed a car accident. As a student radiographer, he was trained in CPR, so he took off to do that. I stood there for a minute thinking “someone should call 999…I can call 999!”. I remembered hearing about crowd mentality, and decided that it would be better to duplicate the call than to have no one call at all.
Turns out, at least two other people were dialling 999. Still better than no one.
No one is expecting the janitor to be happy about cleaning up a mess, but that’s absolutely no excuse for making the comments he made. Even if the poor woman had given birth in public, it would hardly have been intentional, unlike the examples you gave (parents allowing their kids to make huge messes and so forth). What’s a pregnant woman supposed to do, stay at home for her entire third trimester in order to avoid any possibility of giving birth in a public place?
Also, he didn’t end up having to clean up afterbirth, and even if he did, what on earth did the woman’s marital status have to do with anything? He didn’t confine his comments merely to the unpleasantness of having to clean up someone else’s bodily fluids, which would still have been rude but not quite as far over the line as what he did say.
Absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the janitor’s comments. None.
This is why I think first aid courses should be more aviable to people. I think the cleaner’s attitude was SHOCKING and beyond belief.
Now if I saw someone who needed medical help I would do what I could e.g. call an ambulance etc. Now as for other people not helping – dependning on the situation. If they saw OP doing something I agree with Bint, they didn’t want to interfere or they may not have been able to help or they would be screamish. I’m okay with blood but I don’t think I could handle wittnessing a birth – I could faint or be sick (birth is a wondeful thing, I just don’t think I am brave enough to be a midwife). I would try to make Mum as comfy as possible if no one else was there. If she was diabetic, I could help out no probs as I’m diabetic myself – low blood sugar = eat food.
When I was at uni I went to the shops once and I saw a girl collapsed in the gateway of her house. There were two men there and yes I was bad because I assumed they had done something to her (shame on me!) I asked them if they had called an ambulance and they said yes. Just at that moment a policeman came on a bike and tried talking to the girl. If there was no professional there I would have stayed, however with the policeman there what could I have done? I was embrassed I had assumed those men had done something to the woman. However on my way back there was a paramedic there and the policeman. I just didn’t want to be a nosey unhelpful, usless, pointless bystander when there were profesionals there who were doing their job. The two men weren’t there as clearly she was in safe hands.
Re: Good Samaratin laws.
I took senior first aid at the start of this year and we were told that as long as we do reasonable things, we cannot be sued. So, if we jam a bic pen into someone’s neck because they can’t breathe, that would make you liable but if you perform cpr and break their ribs that’s fine.
I hope you both put a complaint in! That cleaner needs the sack. He clearly has issues with women and shouldn’t be working with the general public.
@ Tundra thanks for the clearing that up, although I wouldn’t back out of helping because I fear being sued, I don’t want to harm the person even more!
I was watching BBC Breakfast News and there was a pice on people having fits and what is the best thing to do. One eplitetic said that she had people shove things in her mouth to make sure she didn’t swallow her tounge which could be dangerous. The Dr they had on there said that when someone has convulsions move anything out the way that they could hurt themslves on and put something soft under the head to avoid head injury. I think I could do that.
I can’t remember the poster or story the poster had posted it on but one poster said she posted on a blog that she/he was eplileptic and sometimes bystanders who do help can do dangerous things – she/he then got abuse and nasty commnets that Eplieptics should be greatful for the help they do get – never mind it could be potentially fatel! Some people are shockers.
@ V – I could imagine the janitor being in shock at what was happening but, when a baby is born it is a bit different – it’s not like the Mum can clean up afterwards. Unless the janitor has Tourettes (not too sure if I spelt that right) there is no reason or excuse to use that kind of langauge. Unlike a parent leaving a dirty nappy yes that is wrong, because the parent could take the dirty nappy away or at least ask where the nearest nappy bin is to dispose of it. As for people who clean up stragners’ afterbirths – they do that in hosptials.
“And to top it all off, one of the passer bys was ( we found out at the hospital) one of the mid wives that would be looking after R.”
“Wow now THAT, I do not understand. If I were a midwife and I saw a woman going into labor in public, I would certainly offer my help. She had the expertise and the knowledge to be of more assistance than most of the passers-by.”
Under Australian law, if you identify as a medical professional at an accident, and then something goes wrong, you can be held personally liable for damages. My mother is a nurse and she was told that at an accident, she can help, but NEVER admit to being a nurse. It’s a stupid law but possible why the midwife did not get involved. She had no way of knowing if that lady was one of the good ones or a complete cow.
Sad but true.
kudo to the OP, I wish I had you near me a couple of years ago.
I was visiting NY and USA for the first time and that visit stays with me, not in a nice way.
I’ve just crossed the street (42nd and 34th) and I wasn’t aware that the curb was a lil more higher than normal, so I tripped when I try to step on it. I fell, people stopped, no, not to help me or asked me if I’d hurt myself, noooo, they’ve stopped because I landed in front of their feet! I even crawled a bit more up the sidewalk so a car won’t ran over my feet.
Normally I’m a very confident and outspoken person but under their disapproving looks I felt ashamed that I’ve interrupted their way to what and where-ever. A businessman with a briefcase just stood there waiting impatiently (instead of going around me) till I’ve managed to get up and silly me, I apologized to him for delaying him… with a forgiving nod he continued his way after I managed to got back on my feet…
Yes, some of them continued to their way but most of them just stopped and watched me while I lay with my face down. Not a single person asked me if I’m hurt or am I able to walk or anything else the matter… I still feel ashamed that I let them made me feel that way.
Fortunately I went to SF a couple of days later and SF people has restored my faith in the american hospitality. I never want to return to NY but I’m more than happy to return to SF.
I hope that cleaner got the sack. What a fool!