On Monday evening just as we arrived home we received a message. The guards at a friend’s house had called the guards at our house. The housestaff was concerned because they hadn’t seen Madame all day and her bedroom door was closed. Her husband was out of town and not expected back for a few days. We decided to stop by the house to make sure everything was okay. Another friend was with us. We hoped to be just some folks stopping by, all neighborly like, but there was a palpable feel in the car that we were more like a search party.
When we first pulled up to the house, I noticed the outside porch lights on and felt relief, thinking she'd turned them on. But then Mike mentioned that the guards probably turned them on. We banged on the front door, no answer. We banged on side doors and back doors, no answer. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I heard a faint sound from inside the house. They have a lot of animals, though, including a noisy parrot, so I couldn’t confirm the sound. But Mike heard the definite cry of a person in distress inside the house.
We returned to the front door. It was locked and our copy of the spare key didn’t work. Fortunately for this situation (but not great for other circumstances) Mike was able to break in. He came back around from the inside and unlocked the door to let me in. He’d heard our friend crying from her bedroom. I rushed back there.
She’d been seriously ill all day, vomiting and dizzy. On one hand, we were relieved that things weren’t any worse than that. But on the other, I’m no doctor and with no fever, the symptoms of either malaria or the flu weren’t present, and that was the extent of my amateur diagnosis. Mike called a nurse that I work with. All I could do was provide bedside manner and Gatorade. She was close to dehydration, with all the vomiting and having been too weak to get out of bed for anything to drink all day. She was fairly lucid though, and directed me around the house to make sure all her pets were fed: birds, fish, and a dog.
Once the nurse arrived, I let her take over. My friend kept saying we shouldn’t have come, she’s been sick like this before, she didn’t want people to make a fuss over her. But I say that if you’re so sick and weak that you can’t get out of bed for 10 hours even for a glass of water, that’s when it’s time to call for help. Having guards around the house all the time makes you feel like you’re never alone. Sometimes that’s annoying, but other times it’s nice to know someone’s watching out for you.
The nurse stayed with her all night. We left after Mike did some repair work to the window he’d broken in through. The next morning, she was much better and called me at work to thank me. She still insisted that all the fuss wasn’t necessary, but she did appreciate it. The nurse thinks it might actually be some sort of inner-ear problem. She’ll be traveling through the States next month so will be able to be checked out.
The evening drilled home how much we have to take care of ourselves here. There’s no 911 to call and we’re lucky the situation wasn’t any worse. I feel a constant need to stay up-to-date and refreshed with my first responders training. In the States it’s easy to take for granted the fact that professional help is just a phone call away. But even in the States, sometimes it’s not. Here’s the most practical lesson I learned from the night: Keep your cell phone charged and make sure your contact list is easy to decipher, in case you have to hand the phone off to someone else to make calls. In a time of distress you don't want to waste seconds or minutes trying to find the right numbers.