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“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”
W. Clement Stone

The more I write about the things which happened when I left the Police Force, the more I’ve come to realise how much really happened throughout my time in uniform. It still seems incredible that so much can happen in short amounts of time, yet it is the nature of the job.  However, this is another small yet poignant episode from after I had officially stopped being a police officer.

It was a dark and drizzling night in the middle of winter, cold and bleak when all you wanted was to get back home and into the warmth again. I had been with my daughter at her dancing lesson and we were just leaving. Another class for the adults was about to start.

I was going to say that there are few things which make your blood run cold other than….. but that is wrong. There are many things which make your blood run cold when you wear a police uniform and you carry that feeling with you. So, as we walked along the driveway towards the very busy main road at Sunnybank, the sound of squealing brakes and a solid thunk made my stomach drop. I knew there had been an accident.

It was dark, peak hour, cars were rushing to get home and all six lanes were full.  A bus had just pulled up at the bus stop in front of the church. I’m not a ghoul, but I needed to see if I could help, so I rushed my daughter along. There was a body lying directly along the lane line marking in the road, between the first and second lane. The bus was about to depart and cars were sailing blithely past the prone body. In the dark and rain he was almost impossible to see. No-one was making an effort to get out to the body.

I told my daughter to wait at the bus shelter and as soon as a small break appeared in the traffic I dashed into the road. The old man looked to be in a bad way. I yelled for someone to call police and ambulance and to divert traffic. It was at times like this that I was thankful I had kept up with my first aid. I checked for vitals and gently for injuries. He was so frail I knew there had to be some damage there, even though I couldn’t see much blood in the poor light.

Thankfully, the instructor from the dance class came out with some able bodies and they made a cordon to divert traffic away from the body, at least ensuring our safety. One of the women from the dance class had arrived to keep my daughter company. Someone appeared with a blanket and the message that the ambulance was coming but traffic was holding them up because of the peak hour traffic.

I had my doubts the old gentleman would last long. It was cold on the road and I could feel bones moving under my fingers so I wouldn’t take the chance to move him. He didn’t regain consciousness so I kept him in the recovery position and kept talking to him. There was little else I could do. Then the moment arrived I was dreading, I could no longer feel a pulse. Easing him onto his back I started CPR. Whether it was my ministrations or prayers I don’t know but he began breathing again and I felt a thready pulse once more.

Time seemed drawn out like spun candy, and the ambulance seemed to take forever to arrive. I was performing CPR again as they pulled up and thankfully let the experts take over. They took all the information they needed and carefully placed him on the gurney.  As I rushed back across the road and collected my daughter I thought it might be the last I heard about it, apart from my husband who was not impressed that I had performed CPR on an unknown man, who might have AIDS or anything at all. It was, after all, very difficult to disguise the fact that I was an hour late home and covered in blood!

However, one of the ambulance officers had given me his card and I called to find out if the old fellow had made it. Unfortunately he hadn’t, his frail body hadn’t been able to withstand the car or the effect of the road on him and he passed away at the hospital. It was there I thought this story had ended.

Several days later my son arrived home from school looking very uncomfortable. He asked me if I remembered a good friend of his, someone he had known since Preschool. I did, he was a nice young boy.  He then asked me if I had known the name of the old gentleman I had helped a few nights ago. That was something I had been unable to find out as he had never regained consciousness.

He told me that the old fellow was in fact his friends grandfather. He had been trying to run across the six lanes of traffic to catch the bus home that night but hadn’t made it. The family wanted to thank the unknown lady who had stayed with their father and grandfather until the ambulance had arrived, but she hadn’t left her name. He thought they must have been talking about me since there had been no other accidents reported since then.

I was grateful for the thought but I didn’t need thanks. The thanks I received were in being able to help someone who needed another person to be with them in their last moments and let them know they were not alone.  What more could I really want?

It brought home to me how, a simple act such as mine, could have far-reaching consequences. My son could not have known that I would be there that night or that his friends grandfather would be in an accident. Yet all these individuals were drawn together, unknown and yet joined by lines of connectedness we hadn’t known. “Six degrees of separation” at play for us to see.

Compassion is a very powerful force.

May love and compassion find you always.  Susan x

“for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.”    Paulo Coelho

There are times in life when we have no choice about what we do, or rather there are limited choices available given the circumstances. This was one of those occasions.

When I was first married and living at Kingston I met a vast cross-section of people, as diverse as any I had previously met. The people  next door were classic examples. She was a beautiful lady, beautiful in appearance and her little daughter was a little doll. She looked like a miniature replica of her mother.  Her husband, however was not “beautiful” in any way. He was what I would call a “nasty drunk”. Sober he was bearable, just, but a chauvinist, something I had difficulty putting up with. Drunk he was the meanest son of a gun you would hope to avoid.

We had heard disturbances from next door in the past, heard the police arrive and leave and seen her the following day sporting black eyes and bruises. She was afraid of leaving and so stayed.  When I was home her daughter loved to come over and chatter away as I worked. She was avoiding her father.

Then one night about 2am we heard a terrible shriek from next door, (the daughter), quickly followed by  screams from her mother. “Please stop” and “Help” predominated.  For those who remember, this was back in the days of the “baby doll pyjamas”.  Definitely not something to go running around outside in, but there was no time to dress. So on with a light dressing gown and we started to see what was happening.

The screams were so bad we obviously couldn’t wait for the police. When we  got outside I was astounded by the scene. All our neighbours were lining the footpath watching “the show”, Not one person had offered to go to assist the woman they all knew or the little girl.  There was a man on the verandah looking into the house and the little girl was crying on the lawn. I grabbed one of the neighbours and simply told them to look after her. She was terrified saying over and over “Daddy is killing Mommy”.

My husband charged up the stairs and disappeared into the house.Seeing no-one else was going to help I ran up the stairs and arrived shortly after to see the husband kneeling on top of his wife, her shoulders pinned under his knees as he kept hitting her about the face and body. After my husband grabbed him and pulled him away from her the fight quickly turned towards him. (It usually did work out that way). As they struggled they stumbled out onto the verandah where the second man decided it was a good idea to attack my husband from behind. Not very sporting, nor acceptable to me!

I could not understand why no-one was willing to come to his aid yet were happy to watch someone being attacked by two drunken men. OK, at that point I became truly angry. I was no longer in the Police Force but then enough is enough.  Adrenalin is a wonderful and powerful thing. I grabbed the second fellow and whirled him through the front door, almost a parody of the waltz. After stumbling and falling to the floor I ‘decided’, that is if I actually thought about it, to sit on him to keep him out-of-the-way. It seemed like a good idea at the time and worked. A bloodless coup!

The fellow I was ‘detaining’ was rather perturbed at having a woman, scantily clad at that, sitting on him in the middle of a brawl. The scuffle was continuing unabated outside as her husband decided he didn’t appreciate not being allowed to pound on his wife.  The second fellow kept pleading that he ‘wouldn’t hit a woman’ and ‘if I let him up he would just sit out of the way’. I unceremoniously told him to shut up and keep still. I wasn’t willing to trust him.

The fight suddenly came whirling back into the lounge room. There was a piteous wail from the little girl outside. Around the room they went and into the glass terrarium coffee table, which were the fashion at the time. Unfortunately they were not designed to carry the falling weight of two struggling men and the table smashed as they went down.  I saw blood flowing down my husband’s leg and knew he’d been hurt.

Shortly thereafter, the husband ran out of steam as his drunken binge caught up to him and he was brought under control. His ‘mate’ was still protesting his good behaviour as I sat on him. The local police arrived to take over, finally, and I was able to get to my feet.

Needless to say there was a great deal of smiling  at the scene as they took notes on what had occurred. They knew my husband but it was obviously amusing to see us there in our pyjamas. I can understand why.  It eventuated that the second drunk was the cousin to the woman who was being bashed. He didn’t want to get involved so he stood outside and watched! Both men were arrested and taken away for the night.

We returned home so I could perform some first aid on my husband’s leg. In over 25 years of service the only time he was injured was that night. Ironic don’t you think. Domestics are the worst cases to handle. The police called to the scene so often become the source of the problem once they arrive and are often attacked by everyone. It really is often a no win situation for them.

The police eventually came back to get a formal statement, (not much sleep that night!) and we finally got back to bed.  The sad part was the fact that the husband came back home and the wife remained until he beat her again, so severely that she finally decided to leave him. (He was arrested and jailed this time). I can only hope she made a clean getaway and she is fine now.

In my mind I didn’t really do very much this night, even though the police who came thought I was so brave to tackle the second drunk. However, the potential for things to get much worse was there. My husband was being attacked by two drunks, a very bad situation, and had no hope of assistance from elsewhere. Whilst my attire was not really the best for a fracas there seemed  no choice but to assist. (In my mind at least). Sitting on him seemed a fair exchange for attacking my husband from behind. If he got a few bumps and bruises in the fall then he deserved it.  You simply don’t leave ‘your partner’ in the lurch, you always ‘have his back’.  I’ve said it before, old habits are hard to shake, especially in ‘this game’.

The mindset for being a police officer is fairly entrenched and at this time I had not been very long out of ‘the job’. It’s not an excuse but a fact of life. I was still a police officer in many ways. I guess at times I still am.

The memory does play tricks but I am positive this is exactly what happened. The most embarrassing part for me was being in my ‘baby doll’ pyjamas, not the dress to wear to a drunken brawl, but appreciated by the attending coppers. 🙂

Ciao, Susan

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