Friday, December 19, 2008

Lucky to be Unharmed

Today my wife and I narrowly escaped serious injury to ourselves and/or our car. This is what happened:

We were headed to a movie going East on Route 46, a six lane highway divided by a four foot high concrete barrier. We were driving in the left lane. My wife was at the wheel.

After passing an intersection, both of us noticed that in front of us, in the left-most lane going in the opposite direction, an SUV was driving with two wheels up on the barrier. The car was at a 25-30 degree angle. At first we thought, and both commented, that some foolish teenager was joyriding, but as we approached, the car came down off the end of the barrier and ohmigosh, the driver had his head back, mouth open, and was apparently in middle of a seizure - and the car was barreling toward us, coming onto our side of the highway.

Suddenly, the car driving directly in front of us came to a complete stop, and since traffic was passing us on the right, we were trapped, with an SUV containing a disabled driver heading toward us.

The guy in the car in front of us had jumped out of his car and run toward the careening SUV. My wife asked me if I could look behind me to see if she could back up, but I was mesmerized by the disabled driver and the hero running toward him. I was also fumbling for my phone to call 911. I couldn't also look behind me. In retrospect I realized that I had started dialing 911 out of concern for the driver, not registering that my wife and I were still in mortal danger.

My wife acted quickly though, with the SUV coming towards us, she glanced behind her real quick, saw that it was (relatively) safe, and as the hero nearly got sandwiched between the runaway car and our car, she backed up quickly, and motored to the right and out of the way.

I jumped out of the car and fell in line behind the hero, phone to my ear, completing the call to 911. The hero yanked the SUV into park. Several people motioned to me that 911 was already called, so I put my phone away and ran up to the SUV to see if I could do anything to help.

The man in the SUV seemed to be in his early 50's, eyeballs pinwheeling, completely disoriented, drool everywhere, and sweating profusely. The hero asked him if he was a diabetic, the victim said, "mmno, mmno," slurring his words. Then he said, "Fthenk zhou, fthenk zhou."

A cop arrived pretty swiftly, put on blue gloves and asked the man the same questions the hero had asked him. The cop then searched for necklaces or bracelets that would declare any medical condition. There was none to be found.

In my humble opinion, I believe the man suffered a stroke. His left side seemed limp, the left side of his lip was droopy, and he was clutching his immobile left arm with his good right hand.

Soon more officers arrived, and we'd all done what we could. I shook the hero's hand and thanked him. He was shaking, but he was swift-thinking, and he probably saved the victim's life and who knows how many others. Had the SUV been a stick-shift, an entirely different story would have unfolded.

I went back to the car and joined my wife. We were both shaken, but grateful.

I'll be bentching gomel this Shabbos.

P.S. The movie was great. Slumdog Millionaire.