My mother always told us if something ever happened, if we were ever injured or in trouble, the first thing we should say when we called in such a situation was “I’m okay,” before going into the specifics about whatever had happened. I came home late from a meeting at work in the Bronx the other night and there was such a message on my answering machine from my brother. “I’m okay,” he started, then added he was in the emergency room a nearby hospital.
I immediately called his cell but there was no answer. Thanks to my mother, and how she raised us, I knew from the message that my brother had been injured at work but he was not in a life threatening situation. He finally called, well after midnight. He was okay, but not really, his foot and part of his leg had been run over by a van.
He was at his part-time job where he transports hotel guests back and forth from Newark Airport, or local restaurants, or wherever they want to go. He has a brutal schedule since he also works full-time as a security guard on the midnight shift at a large multi-national corporation. He’s worked two jobs since our mother died. His jobs, and his dog, are his life. He doesn’t make much money but with two jobs he doesn’t have much time to think about it, and even if he thought about how little money he made, he’s too busy with his jobs to have time to spend much money.
Now, due to one mishap, he wasn’t able to work either job. The accident wasn’t his fault, but now he was in a position where he had to put everything in place to fill the coming void where he would be facing missing paychecks, through no fault of his own. The irony was not lost. He wanted to work, but couldn’t, and workmen’s compensation would only pay about 70% of his salary, so in essence, he was being punished financially for being injured.
As we talked, he was second guessing himself, beating himself up over what he could or should of done differently. It was all irrelevant. What happened happened, and he only had a split second in which to act, and he was actually lucky to be alive. He was left on crutches, with his foot blown up and purple, a bone fracture, and a splint running up to his knee.
He wasn’t sure what to do now. I wasn’t sure either, but fortunately, I knew a lot of people who would. Despite many having differing opinions and making simple pronouncements about my brother’s situation, I couldn’t help wondering if any of them would immediately know what to do if the same thing happened to them. My brother was feeling shock, pain, and anger, and I could well understand why. I was reminded of how one’s entire world can change in a flash when least expected. The words of my doctor, my general practitioner, came to me. Recently, she gave me a clean bill of health, but my anxious, somewhat hypochondriacal nature prompted me to push for further guarantees about my health, to which, the doctor assured me I was fine, then added with a whimsical smile, “But you know what they say, life is unpredictable.” And so it is, my brother went to work, like any other day, and when he awakened that morning he never envisioned what condition he would be in that night.
It was routine, the hotel services manager asked my brother to pick up two guests, and then, as an afterthought, he told my brother the van was acting up, it was occasionally slipping out of park into reverse and the emergency brake should be put on to prevent that. My brother didn’t think much about it, he was concentrating on doing his job. He rarely used that particular van, maybe had used it twice before, and the hotel services manager was indicating it was okay, or else, so my brother reasoned, why would the van even be in use?
My brother picked up the guests, two young guys from India, brought them back to the hotel, parked the van, and then got out to open the back door for them to get out. Before he could do that, however, the van started rolling backwards. My brother was caught off guard, all he aware of was the van moving and the Indian guys frantically waving their arms, expressions of complete fear emphasizing their helpless state. Instinctively, my brother lunged back into the van, getting his right leg in and pulling up on the emergency brake, while his left leg was still outside on the pavement, with the wheel of the van was just beginning to roll over his foot.
My brother was being dragged out of the van as the tire continued on over his foot and then up on top and across his leg, One of the Indian guys hurtled into the front seat, grabbing my brother and pulling him all the way into the van, but by that time, his foot had been crushed and the lower part of his leg was injured. He was alive, and that was the main thing, if the passenger hadn’t acted, and acted quickly, the van would have continued rolling backward. pulling my brother all the way out of the front seat and who knows whether it would have then gone over an arm, his chest, or even his head?
A traumatic experience, no doubt. But what was the next step, what was one supposed to do? My brother called the hotel services manager, whose immediate response was to ask about the condition of the van, had there been much damage done to it?
“Forget the van!” my brother shouted. “My foot was just run over.”
“Don’t get so excited, you have to calm down,” the hotel services manager said.
“That van shouldn’t even be in use,” my brother said, his voice still raised.
One of the passengers told my brother he should call the police. You need a record of this. There’s the reality of what took place, and then there’s the official record, which you need the police to get down.
So, that’s what my brother did, which was good, and not something that would have occurred to me, especially if my foot had just been run over. The two Indian passengers were witnesses and the police dutifully filled out an accident report, and then, finally, my brother went to the hospital.
He was back home, about a forty-five minute drive from me, when I finally talked with him. What to do now? First, he wanted to vent, which was certainly understandable, and okay with me. At the moment, my brother was disabled and
didn’t have an income. Okay, workmen’s compensation would eventually kick in, as many pointed out, but it’s not something that comes about magically or automatically. Forms have to be filled out and appropriate claims submitted.
I can also hear the chorus of many saying, “Sue, your brother has a great negligence case.” But, my brother, like me, and like our mother, is not a litigious person, lawsuits are the last thing in which he wanted to become embroiled — no,
he simply wanted to return to work. Of course, he wasn’t in any condition to work.
He was particularly annoyed that the emergency room personnel referred him to an orthopedic doctor who was on the list recognized by workmen’s compensation. My brother resented being told which doctor he was required to see, and that he had no choice in the matter, that is if he ever hoped to receive any financial compensation.
I calmed my brother down, telling him to go to the orthopedic guy, but first, he should go to our general practitioner because we had an historic relationship with her, and she would see him right away and he would find out if he had anything physically to worry about. My brother was also very concerned because he has diabetes, and he had no idea if this would be a concern in terms of circulation given the fact his foot was swollen and about twice its normal size.
Our doctor saw my brother the next day, checked out his foot, cleaned the wound, and told him he should be okay. He can still drive since it was his left foot which was injured so he came over to my place after seeing the doctor. His foot looked terrible — ugly and purple and bruised — and yet, considering the circumstances, it didn’t look as bad as I had expected. Surprisingly, he told me he wasn’t in much pain. Even more surprisingly, at least to me, he said he hopes to be back at work within the week. I don’t know if that’s realistic, or possible, but I didn’t say anything, for I was happy to be just sitting in my living room and talking with my brother, and I knew if my mother was still alive, she would be happy, too.