A FEW years ago, I received a phone call from my sister. Her number showed up on my mobile phone so I greeted her with my usual, chirpy “good morning” routine, eager to tease her as I normally do. But I stopped when I heard her weak voice saying, “Ta. I fell. At home.” And then the line went dead.

I felt a chill go down my spine. I called her again a few times but no answer. I immediately got into the car and drove to her house located a few minutes away. That 10-minute journey felt like eternity.

When I got there, her front gate was slightly ajar, and her front door was unlocked. I heard noises upstairs. My heart was thumping, not knowing what I’d find. Who’s upstairs with her? Are there burglars? Is my sister hurt and harmed?

I tiptoed upstairs and followed the sounds. To my relief, it was my sister’s neighbour, Mrs C (not her real name). She looked pale and frightened like she’d seen a ghost. She looked at me and then at the floor, at that time hidden from my line of sight.

I walked in to find my sister sprawled on the floor with limbs splayed at odd angles. She looked so broken, pale, and blood oozed from her head, leaving a pool of blood around her head like some crime scene. I thought she was dead. It was a good thing Mrs C didn’t move her. Neither did I. I felt for her pulse and called out her name. She didn’t respond but thank goodness she was still breathing.

I told Mrs C to gently apply compress to slow down the bleeding while I called the ambulance. The paramedics came soon after the call. They were so efficient and professional that they were out of the house in less than 15 minutes upon arrival to take my sister to the hospital.

In the time they were there, they assessed the situation — bleeding was a superficial cut; no broken bones but possible concussion. They placed a neck brace on my sister, gently placed her on the stretcher, strapped her securely to it and manoeuvered their way down the narrow staircase and into the ambulance without a single bump.

By that time, I had managed to call my sister’s children, who arrived just in time to follow her in the ambulance, while I drove to the hospital, after quickly packing what she might need for her hospital stay. I’d also called my siblings to wait for her arrival at the hospital’s emergency department.

It all happened so quickly and there was so much to do — registering her at the hospital, being her guarantor until her insurance could be sorted out, following her while different tests were done, and updating family in the midst of it all. It was only when she was finally settled in the ward that I managed to sit down and reflect on what had happened.

It was quite amazing that her handphone was within reach and she had the presence of mind to make calls before blacking out. The first call was to her immediate neighbour and the next call was to me. Mrs C is a dear and much trusted neighbour of many years who has the keys to the house.

I returned to my sister’s house to see that all was in order and I found that Mrs C had mopped and cleaned up the bloodstains in the bedroom. She’d also kept the steps that my sister was using to clean the ceiling fan when the accident happened.

IMPORTANT NUMBERS TO KEEP

I went to see Mrs C to thank her for all her help but she waved it off, saying it was the least she could do. She was concerned for my sister, but said that she wouldn’t be visiting the hospital so that my sister could rest and recover. She’d wait until my sister was well enough to come home.

From this experience, I think it’s important to have a list of names and numbers to call in case of emergencies. Make large printouts of these and put them on the fridge and in as many rooms in the house as possible.

We should also put these numbers in our handphones. How to list them? You could list them under your Favourite numbers, screen capture them and use as a screen saver so that you don’t need the passcode to access the phone.

On that list should be people like your spouse, children, a trusted neighbour, police, general and private ambulance services, your regular hospital and emergency hotlines for electric, water and car insurance companies. You can add other important numbers too like your children’s school or teachers, poison control, animal and pest control for days you have wild strays or animals in your house or compound.

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