Saturday, January 19, 2008

No Photos Today

This time last night I was in Chinatown. If you're outside of L.A. you might not know that unlike San Francisco and New York, LA's Chinatown is pretty much a dead zone in the evening. I turned up a especially dark street that feeds into Alameda and came across a man lying face down in the middle of the street.

Right or wrong, I briefly considered taking a couple of photos ('cause that's what I do) but if this guy was just drunk and not dead it was only a matter of time until a car comes up over him.

As I asked him "You need help?" I was instantly making eye contact with a fully conscious man nodding his head vigorously. I hauled him up and half-dragged him to the sidewalk. He was a very old Asian man bleeding from either the mouth or nose. He didn't want help, he didn't even want me to make a phone call. Without saying too much more he shuffled off. I followed him for another two or three blocks and then saw him wobble and fall again.

This time he was relatively unhurt but we were still in a dark part of town. Phillippes Restaurant was just a block or two away; that became my goal. Some of my questions he wouldn't answer but he did say his name was Mr. Wong and he needed to take the bus to Alhambra and even told me the name of the assisted living center that he stayed at. A police car drove past and I waved for them to come over but they kept on going. At this point he is just doggedly shuffling down the street which I took to mean "I'll be all right if I can just get to the bus that will take me home."

I'm not sure what to do. Mr. Wong is clear that he doesn't want any medical attention which at this point would mean endless hours at County General - on a Friday night no less. So I just keep on walking with him to the bus stop, hoping the worst had past.

We get to the bus stop. It's surprisingly crowded but the benches are empty. He goes to sit on the bench but again topples over, this time hard and fast. Every available cell phone comes out and, thankfully, a VA nurse steps up as Mr. Wong is bleeding badly from the mouth.

Eventually an ambulance showed and they took Mr. Wong away. Today I called the assisted living center in Alhambra and he indeed was a resident there and they had been contacted by County General where he is still being held.

At this point I'm thinking I should have called 911 when I first found him. On the other hand, if he had walked off while I waited for the ambulance he would have been completely out of eyesight at the point of his second fall.

12 comments:

Kalyan said...

nice reading this post....nice to know about your inner side...the post was really evocative & made me thoughtful!

santos. said...

i don't know how you could have done better than what you did; you stayed with him and tried to keep him safe, at the same time honoring his wish. there is no way of knowing when help would have arrived had you called 911 when/where you first found him, and by following him to the bus stop, you did help him to the safest place he could be, with, fortuitously, medical assistance. i should only hope that if i were the same situation (in either role), things would work out as well as they did. kudos to you, and my prayers are with mr. wong.

Jay said...

I'm sure Mr. Wong thanks you. He is on his way home - just not the way he originally planned.

AArtVark said...

No, you were right - unless there is an obvious life threatening situation and the person is unconscious or spouting buckets of blood - never call 911 if they don't want you to. Hunter's advice was pretty good on this matter - Never call 911. Never. This means you.

On the other hand, maybe you would have had more fun driving him to Alhambra...

Debi said...

Mr. K, even without a photo this post is in perfect keeping with your Gazette and with the feeling of humanity behind each of your photos. Thank you for sharing this. (P.S. You are as articulate in words as you are in photography.)

D.C. Confidential said...

Wow! Tough call. I don't know what I would have done, either, except I think you did the right thing staying with him.

This post was evocative and just as gripping as your photos.

Best wishes to Mr. Wong for a speedy recovery.

Scott Roeben said...

What's with all the words, Photo Boy?

Yoga Gal said...

Great blog entry! Let's face it all of downtown L.A. is dead at night! As for China Town the real China Town is in Monterey Park, Alhambra and Acradia.

Kate said...

It's refreshing to read about someone helping a stranger like this. And you even followed up by calling the assisted living center.

Mr. Wong received help, and everyone who read your post received hope by learning that not everyone in L.A. is indifferent.

Well done!

oldmanlincoln said...

I would say you did the right thing by staying with him until you got to the bus stop. It is doing the right thing that counts.

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Bliss said...

I also think you did the right thing :-)

spacedlaw said...

I think you did the right thing in the end. He might have been just drunk indeed and calling 911 would have been an overkill. I like that you remained with him all the time.