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Letter: Willingness to help

Witnesses to health- and life-threatening situations shouldn’t resign themselves to merely being onlookers.
A Thompson RCMP vehicle and a Thompson Fire & Emergency Services ambulance at the scene of a car accident in January 2021.

To the Editor:

A little past 5 pm on Tuesday of this week, as my wife and I approached a drive thru, I heard her say loudly, “My God.” She was referring to a man lying still, facedown on the snow right next to the drive thru. We did not see any other vehicle or person stop to give aid, even though there were lots of vehicles in the drive thru, so we stopped and climbed out of our vehicle. Our first thought was, ‘How long has he been lying out here and is he breathing? It was close to -30 Celsius outside and it was reported that with the windchill factor it felt closer to -35. We observed an RCMP vehicle across the parking lot, so we first tried to flag the officer down and then drove over to the vehicle when we did not get any response. My wife, Michele, advised the officer of what we saw, assuming that the officer had seen him as well. When Michele got back into our vehicle, after the officer said she would call it in, we drove back to the individual still lying on the ground with vehicles still moving through the drive thru. We assumed that the officer was going to come over to lend aid. Instead, we saw the RCMP truck drive off.

Thankfully, after the tenth or twelfth time asking, “Are you able to get up?” or saying “Buddy, you need to get up,” he moved, giving us as sign that he was in fact alive. Parts of his face had already turned black from frostbite, so it told us he had to be moved. By that time — and about 10 minutes had now passed by — we had one car stop by to say they had called the RCMP and then a young man walked by to lend us aid and had the guy rest his head on his shoes just to get his head off the frozen ground. By this time, we had all come to the same conclusion: the man seems to be too intoxicated to stand up.

Finally, after 15 minutes or so a community safety officer car drove up to the scene just as we were trying to get an ambulance. The CSOs reluctantly allowed the young man and me to put the guy into their car to stop further frostbite until an ambulance showed up about five minutes after the arrival of the CSO. 

After we left, after the ambulance arrived, I had some general thoughts. First, thank you to the young man that assisted us. He was not just an onlooker, he got engaged with the situation. Second, for the RCMP officer that drove off, I wish you would have driven by to at least assess the condition of the individual until the CSOs came. Or the ambulance. Maybe it is not protocol, maybe you were in a rush to get somewhere else, but it would have shown a certain level of engagement and interest in the well-being of this individual. To the individuals in vehicles that just looked on before we got out of our vehicle, I hope that you were not just onlookers and were calling on your cell phones to the RCMP or CSO to come over to assist as you were placing your orders. Finally, to the individual who is now probably walking around with frostbite on his face, my hope is that you never do something this idiotic again.

I know that, not just in Thompson but in many other places, there is, for some, a general feeling of exhaustion when you witness public intoxication. My hope is that, even if you feel uncomfortable or annoyed, that this does not take from you your humanity and the willingness to help someone who may be clearly in need of assistance. Many, if not most of us, me included, have or have had individuals close to us that have been in difficult situations. Quite often, someone came to their rescue and helped them. My hope is that we all find it in our hearts to go beyond our area of comfort to help when we see people in need of it, even if it is not convenient at the time.  

Oswald Sawh


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