I went walking on Sunday; I was not really happy about it. I was tired from the day before and aggravated at the kids for even wanting breakfast. So I left, and started to weave my way through the Sunday wanderers, looking mostly at the ground because I didn't feel like making eye contact with all of the the people who probably thought I was still in my pajamas. I just wanted to walk it off.
I headed up Bei Chen Da Dao, which is a main artery, loaded with trucks coming from various construction sites and farms. Such a crazy mix of pollution and honking, as everyone has the right of way. But today, the honking behind me was different, people were just laying it on; so I looked behind me, and saw a car parked right in the middle of the road with it's trunk open. There was a bundle on the road behind the car, and my first thought was, 'Something has fallen off his roof...or...out of his trunk?'... My pace slowed and I went to the edge of the sidewalk to take a better look.
It was the crumpled body of a woman lying on the road.
Huge trucks and taxis were weaving around this scene, and people were beginning to line the road at a safe distance. Ok, I must cross the road and see what's going on, legs, cross the road!, and waited for a small break in traffic, with my head screaming that people get hit by the cars trying to go around an accident while they are running to help. And in China, vehicles will take whatever escape route they can, as fast as they can. I saw my chance and ran for it, glad that the silver BMW in the middle of the road offered some shelter from the front.
She was in bad shape. There was a trickle of blood coming from her mouth and nose, her elbow was bleeding, and her eyes were rolled back. She was softly moaning. I straightened out her legs and rolled her a bit to her side; at that point noticing the pool of blood that was beginning to form on the concrete at the back of her head.
Jesus, help me!
A young man of about 30 was also crouched down, looking at her but obviously not knowing what to do. He told me that he had called the ambulance and the police. I asked him if she had been hit by a car, he nodded. 'Your car?', I asked...he didn't answer. I called Kyle and told him to get to where I was. I wasn't sure that he could do anything either, except his Chinese was way better than mine.
Time stretched out as people took the opportunity to gather around us and murmur to themselves. I put my jacket under her head and took her pulse. I noticed that she was wearing a pretty jade bracelet. Her hand was so smooth and soft. The people around were discussing moving her to the side of the road and I put my arms firmly on her body, indicating that they were not going to do any such thing. She struggled a bit under my arms, convulsed and threw up a mixture of blood and...
'Oh God, is that tissue??'
all over my hand. It reminded me of the warm slippery wetness of handling a newborn baby.
'Where is the ambulance??', I asked the people, my voice wasn't calm anymore. 'Please, can we take her to a hospital? She needs a hospital NOW! I will pay!' They just continued to look at me, not unsympathetic, but unmoved to action by this foreigner yelling in the street.
'Jesus, I don't want her to die on me... I know what to do if she does, but it will be so much better if she just stays alive' I kept whispering over and over. 'Please keep her alive'.
An elderly man pushed his way through the circle and began to yell at me and wave his cane around. He was so upset, I thought for a moment he would hit someone. I heard 'Bu shir! Bu shir! Ta shir pungyou!, from someone. 'No! She's a friend!'.
Oh. he thought I had hit her. Rich foreigner. Fancy car. Was he her father?
Kyle arrived at the same time as the 'ambulance' (pretty much a large van with a stretcher). A couple of people who I assumed to be doctors began working on her so I stood up. Then I almost fell down, so I grabbed onto Kyle's shoulder. They scooped her up along with my jacket and put her on the stretcher. (oh, what about her neck! I winced.) The man in the silver BMW took Kyle's card and said he would call to let us know her condition. He didn't offer his phone number.
The old man with the cane begged me to forgive him for his mistake. I just shook my head and put my hand on him. Forget it. He got into the ambulance with the woman and it drove away.
I went over and sat on the scooter. Sure enough, the silver BMW had a broken windshield where the woman had hit it. I took out my phone and snapped a picture... license plate, windshield, pool of blood.
There is a lot of fear among the Chinese of helping someone in need, especially at the scene of an accident, for good reason; there is actually precedent that if you help, you are are assumed to be at fault, and therefore have to pay all of the bills, and possibly suffer incarceration. Recently, in Guandong province a two year old girl was hit by a car on a market street. No one wanted to help her for fear of being implicated, so she lay in the middle of the road and was run over again. She died. The story provoked such a cry of injustice that there is now a lawyer in Kunming who will defend anyone, free of charge, persecuted as a result of acting as a 'Good Samaritan'. Of course, being Canadian, I can't imagine acting in any other way, but the old man waving his cane in my face gave me a taste of what it may be like for Chinese who go out on a limb.
We sat on the scooter, getting ready to leave. Silver BMW guy ran up to us. 'Thank you so much for helping! He said. I will wait for police to come.
I hope so, I secretly thought.
'I want to pay for your wife's jacket.' he said. I shook my head.
'Mien fei'. Kyle told him. It's free.