When you think you’re going to die, it’s true, your past life does flash up in front of you.
In my case it was just the few moments before the train crash: running along the platform and leaping on the train as it had started moving, and accidentally colliding with the blonde-haired young woman standing near the door in the crowded carriage. I apologised, and she smiled as she readjusted her raincoat, and I caught a glimpse of her jacket’s name badge: Dr Wendy Summers, St Thomas’ Hospital. Then I shuffled along amongst the standing passengers, groping for a tiny space to call my own.
Shortly after we’d got moving there was an incredibly loud bang and a splintering, tearing sound. I heard some people shouting, someone moaning. I’d been thrown sideways, was part of a pile of bodies, most of us trying to flounder to our feet.
The train compartment’s roof had collapsed, seating and luggage racks were broken, bags and cases strewn everywhere. I got the impression that someone had opened a door along the carriage and those who were able to were leaving the train. To my relief I was unharmed, unlike the man beside me on the floor. Luggage and debris had fallen onto his leg, and his face was contorted with pain. I managed to lift away the heavy things that had trapped him, but I could see a lot of blood.
And there, standing above me, was the woman doctor whom I’d bumped into when I’d got on the train. She knelt beside me, and was gesturing frantically, pointing to the man’s thigh, making gestures of tying something together. The penny dropped: a tourniquet, tie it around his thigh to restrict the blood flow. She then gestured, pointing upwards, and I caught on to that too—raise his leg up in the air. Then she disappeared, clearly in a frantic hurry to help someone else. As I undid the man’s tie and used it to strap around his thigh tightly, I caught on to her logic: telling me what to do, rather than doing it herself, saved valuable seconds in which she could be saving someone else’s life. I managed to do what was required, and propped the man’s leg up on some piles of bags.
By now most of the able-bodied people had left the train. I saw the doctor on the other side of the carriage, and moved towards her. She turned and saw me, frantically gesturing towards a red-faced lady who was on the ground, and who seemed to be in distress. The doctor pointed to her own mouth, gesturing that the injured woman’s mouth needed to be opened. I caught on, remembering my first-aid training: clear the airway. While the doctor rushed away to some other emergency, I knelt beside the lady, and prised open her mouth. My finger located the object—her false teeth plate—lodged in her throat and I pulled it out. She took a huge intake of breath and started coughing and spluttering.
As the paramedics arrived, the crisis gradually de-escalated, and I followed the route I’d seen so many others take, to the trackside, fresh air and freedom.
It was as I was passing paramedics carrying a stretcher that I happened to look across at the victim. I instantly recognised the blonde doctor lady who’d been helping the wounded people. What on earth could have happened to her? Had some part of the train collapsed on her unexpectedly while she’d been struggling to help others?
One of the paramedics saw my distress as I looked at her. He touched my arm sympathetically. “I’m really sorry, mate,” he said in a kindly tone. “Was she a friend of yours?”
“She didn’t suffer. Looks like the roof came down on her head as it happened—it would have been instantaneous, she wouldn’t have known a thing, I promise you, my friend, she wouldn’t have suffered.”
“No, you don’t understand, that’s impossible.” I floundered in confusion. “After the crash she was moving around, helping people.” I remembered Dr Summers, looking at the man on whose leg I had put a tourniquet, explaining what to do, the way she used her hands to gesture. The way she never actually did anything because she was so busy, how she just rushed around giving orders. Then I realised that she had never actually physically done anything herself. Nor had she spoken.
“Sorry, mate, you’re confused, you’re in shock,” the paramedic assured me patiently. “She couldn’t possibly have helped anyone. She was killed outright at the moment of impact.”
“But I saw her moving around. I saw her.”
And I did see her. I swear to you that I saw her.
How come no one believes me?
(Image by Robert -Owen-Wahl from Pixabay)