This is something that happened over a week ago, but it's been weighing heavily on me, so I'm hoping that the act of writing about it will help me manage the many emotions swirling around inside.
It was a week ago Friday, just after 5pm; I was working, Andy was on the stationary bike, and the kids were here and there. Suddenly Andy shouted to me to come down immediately. He had gotten off the bike and was stretching, and just happened to look out the window and saw our elderly neighbor across the street lying by the curb. We both raced out the door and ran to her. She seemed unhurt, and had apparently just slipped on the ice. It couldn't have been long that she was lying there, because she wasn't yet shivering even though she was soaked from the icy puddle at the curb's edge. She is about 90 and has dementia, so we had to reintroduce ourselves to her although we've known her for about 13 years now. There was a time when she knew all our kids' birthdays and got them gifts, and we used to go over there on Christmas Eve, but for several years now she hasn't known us, although she's very happy every time she "meets" us.
She was alone and had no coat on, so Andy asked where her husband was (they go everywhere together), and she said, "Oh, he's at work." Well, he's also close to 90 and it was Friday night and the car was in the driveway (yes, he still drives), so Andy feared the worst: that he had died and she had gone outside to get help and then forgot where she was going. I ran inside while Andy was helping her up the walkway to the front door. I called for the husband, and I heard him shouting. I traced his voice out to the back walkway, where he had fallen on a different patch of ice! We decided that what had probably happened was that he fell and called for her, but she went out the front instead of the back and fell there. I have no idea where she was intending to go when she fell.
So Andy sat her down in the kitchen and came out to where I was shouting for him. The husband was lying face down in the snow and had clearly been there 20 or 30 minutes anyhow. (He had been trying to shovel a path to the garage.) He was completely lucid and could thrash around but couldn't get himself up. We managed to hoist him up (and in the process threw out our backs and were lucky to get squeezed in for chiro appointments on Monday), but he couldn't stand. I ran in and got a kitchen chair, wedged it into the snow, and Andy plopped him in it.
I ran back in and called 911 while Andy waited out back and held the husband upright in the chair. Meanwhile, the wife had vanished, and I panicked but soon found her upstairs trying to get into dry clothing.
While we waited, we managed to find their kids' phone numbers. We reached the son and left a message for the daughter. Then came all the excitement with the firetrucks and EMTs. They took them both to the ER to check them out, and we knew that the son was on the way, so we closed up the house and went home.
I went over the next day and saw them, and they were both fine, and very grateful. The daughter was there, and she pulled me aside to say that she's been trying for 3 years to move them to an assisted living place, but they won't hear of it. She can't legally force them to move, and they simply refuse. She said to them in front of me, "If Karen and Andy hadn't found you, you would have frozen to death overnight!" and she's right, but they do not want to give up their home and their independence. It's an awful situation.
All I keep thinking about is WHAT IF Andy hadn't noticed her lying there? It was getting dark, and we live on a side street that is not very well lit and doesn't get much traffic. WHAT IF she had in fact gone out the back door and slipped right next to her husband? No one would've known they were out there. WHAT IF they were our parents? I have lost so much sleep worrying about them, and there's nothing I can do.