Over the Hill

As the 911 system shows, government healthcare services can help us

Special to The TribuneOctober 3, 2013 

Phil Dirkx

We shouldn’t be having this big fight over government healthcare services. We know from experience that government healthcare services can help us. The obvious example is Medicare; ask anyone over 65. Another example is the “call 911” system.

I called 911 last week as Mamie and I were starting on a walk around our neighborhood. We were still on our driveway when we saw three teenage boys walking in the street. That didn’t surprise us; we live one block from the high school campus.

They walked toward us saying something about “hurt” and “help.” Two of them were steadying the third. They showed me the inside of one of his arms. One boy mentioned getting caught on a fence.

The injured boy was missing a patch of skin from the inside of his elbow. The hole was as big as a lid for a plastic cup. It wasn’t bleeding, but I saw what looked like muscle, or tendons or bones. It sure wasn’t a surface scrape.

The boy’s eyelids drooped and his eyes tried to roll upwards. I had him sit on the curb. I said we better call 911. He agreed and his friends nodded. They seemed nervous. They thanked me and hurriedly walked away.

In our neighborhood there is a gate through the cyclone fence that borders the high school campus. One of my neighbors later told me that school officials have begun locking the gate during school hours. It’s possible the fence snagged the boy as he scrambled over it.

I called 911 on my cell phone and sat next to him. He told me he’s 15. A few minutes later a big, red, city fire truck lumbered towards us.

Three obviously well-trained, take-charge guys got out and took charge. One was bilingual and communicated with the teenager better than I could. They also took his blood pressure and tied a protective bandage over his wound. In the meantime an ambulance pulled up, also dispatched by the 911 operators. The injured boy rode away in it.

The “call 911” system has probably been around for 30 years. It’s part of our lives. Two years ago when Mamie broke her hip in our front yard, I called 911. Firefighters, trained to handle medical emergencies, are often the first responders to heart attacks.

Compare that with 1940, when longtime Paso Robles resident Horace Burleigh collapsed with an apparent heart attack on the sidewalk in front of Cates’ barbershop. Volunteers took him to a nearby drugstore. He died there. It was two days before his 82nd birthday.

The 911 dispatch system is a government medical service that’s paid for by us and that works for us. It has improved through the years. So will Obamacare.

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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