It is difficult to tell this story.
HIPPA prohibits the release of private medical information. Paramedics and first responders cannot discuss the calls they roll on. But the story needs to be told.
Everyone has heard the time-worn adages, “Mind your own business” and “Don’t get involved.” We all know the risks.
Our neighbor retired as a barber in upstate New York. He was a good man who came to America as a teenager, entered legally and worked hard to become a naturalized citizen. He was drafted and served honorably in the United States Army. He never complained and was proud to serve his adopted country.
This neighbor continued to cut hair and that is how I came to know him.
He lived next to an elderly lady that had been a fixture in our church for many years. Her health was being ravaged by Father Time and personal mobility was decreasing. After several accidents, her driver’s license was taken away. Truth be told, she had no business driving.
Wifey and I began transporting her to and from church on Sundays. Friends and church members suggested she consider assisted living but the lady remained proud and independent. What little family she had did not live in the area and were reluctant to get involved.
Her life became more difficult. Once she had a diabetic attack and another time, she fell when we arrived to take her to church. She begged us not to call 911 and feared above all else that she would be placed in assisted living.
In conversations with the retired barber, it was discovered that he and his son, who lived next door, were doing all they could to help. They cut her grass, took her roll out garbage to the curb and in many ways, provided assistance for one who could not do for herself.
The barber told me she had fallen several times and he was not strong enough to lift her. On one occasion, his son could not help and the barber called 911. First responders with the fire department used three strong men to lift her but she refused the offer of an ambulance or any medical treatment. For a long spell, she would not speak to the barber but he and his son continued to assist her.
One Sunday, wifey and I took her to church and back home. She was having difficulty even using a walker. We thought little of it, knowing that friends from the church often went by during the week to help with housework, buy and deliver groceries and generally help. The following Wednesday evening, we heard sirens stopping somewhere close in the neighborhood.
That is not uncommon with all the new housing developments.
I was surprised when our doorbell rang after dark and the retired barber was there. He had not seen the elderly lady for several days and noticed as it got dark that her front porch light was on, something she never did. The barber knocked at her door but there was no response. He looked in the windows but all was dark. Finally, he used an emergency key the elderly lady had given him.
She had fallen on Sunday evening and was still on the floor. She had not eaten nor had insulin and was barely conscious. Still, she begged the barber not to call 911. The good neighbor did the right thing and called them anyway.
She was fortunate to be alive and after a stint in ICU was transferred to an assisted living center for physical rehabilitation. She continued making good progress and regaining mobility until she was able to return home.
What if the retired barber “minded his own business” or did not want to get involved? Then the consequences would have been tragic and the elderly lady would have died alone on the floor.
Our preacher prayed with the congregation that she not be forgotten and left alone to die. A friend in Sunday school remarked that society often treats our pets better than our senior citizens.
The elderly lady had several more years of life before she quietly passed away.
Recently, the good neighbor passed away. An unassuming hero, beloved by family and friends, may he rest in peace.
In his memory, please think of the elderly and disabled who live near you and become a “good neighbor.”
Photo: Getty Images