Nosiness averts tragic possibility


POSTED: Sunday, February 01, 2009

A quiet Sunday morning found me at my computer answering e-mail. I got up to bring the paper in and looked up and down the hall. Several papers lay at other neighbors' doors.

A couple of hours later when I looked outside again, I noticed that the paper was still lying at the door across the hall.

I glanced at my watch—11 a.m.—and I wondered why Mrs. E. had not picked up her paper.

I knew she was home and brings her paper in by 8 at the latest. Maybe I'd better check, I thought, so I stepped over and knocked on her door. I could hear a radio inside, so I said in a loud voice, “;Louise, are you OK?”;

I heard something solid hitting the closed door on the other side, and a frail voice said, “;No ... not OK! I'm on the floor!”;

I tried the door knob. Locked! “;Louise, can you open the door?”;

“;I don't know but I'll try. I have my cane.”;

More sounds of something solid hitting the door, a rattling door chain on the inside. The door opened a little, but far enough so I could see Louise sitting on the floor in her nightie.

Louise was lucid and didn't appear to be in severe distress. She said she had waited too long to take her diabetes medication.

“;Do you have your medical pager?”; I asked.

“;It's in my purse on the dresser.”; I checked; no purse on any dresser or table anywhere!

Carefully I stepped around Louise and went to my apartment to dial 911.

I gave the location and condition of my neighbor to the operator and dashed back across the hall. Help seemed slow to arrive, so I checked some more without luck for the purse with the pager in it.

“;Louise, can you remember where you had your purse last?”; I was frantic; still no ambulance!

“;I think I may have hid it from burglars,”; Louise said.

“;Great!”; I thought. “;How could burglars get in with a double lock and a door chain?”;

It seemed like hours before the EMTs arrived, and I left my neighbor in their capable hands. But all afternoon, I thought about what might have happened if I hadn't been nosy.

Our apartments face each other at the end of the hall, so there is not much traffic. Louise would have grown weaker over the hours without her medication, and of course her pager was tucked inside her well-hidden purse! If she had been able to attract help, they would have lost precious minutes if her door chain had been on.

What a sad lesson we almost learned! I could have lost my neighbor.

Elderly folks in poor health living in secure buildings might not need door chains as much as they need to wear their pagers—and having a nosy neighbor helps, too!