We pulled out of the Bicycle Village Parking lot at 9:40, a full ten minutes behind schedule. I had barely clipped in when I saw him lying face up on the curb. His arms were straight out, the cord from his sign was stuck in his mouth and his entire body convulsed. Trails of bloody spittle oozed from his mouth.
I don’t remember braking or unclipping. Apparently I said something like “OH MY GOD!” because my sister stopped to see what was the matter. She came running back and called 911 while I got the cord out of his mouth and rolled him onto his side.
He stopped gasping for breath at that point and even though he was breathing hard, it became steady again. I rubbed his back to give him something to focus on, and talked to him while wiping the spittle and blood away.
The fire truck got there first and before I had even picked my helmet off the ground a breathing mask was on his face. One of the firemen said “Thank you for stopping, thank you,” a few times. Our little group stood around for a minute before someone said, “we should get out of their way”.
And so we left.
The homeless man was standing at the corner with a sign around his neck and a backpack perched on a nearby rock when my sister and I pulled into the lot. We were cutting it close to the 9:30 start time but my back tire had been totally flat and I paused to pump it up. The stem wasn’t tightened all the way and during the 8-minute drive to the bike shop all the air leaked out again.
One of the bike shop guys tightened the stem and inflated both tires but in that time the main group took off. Four people waited for my sister and me; they weren’t going to leave us behind due to a flat tire.
This was my first group ride with the Bicycle Village folks. My sis had been on one other ride and invited me to join her today. Since it didn’t start until 9:30 I could still do my Saturday Morning trail run and be home in time to change clothes, grab the bikes and get to the next start point.
As we rode along Cherryvale Road half an hour later I thought about the synchronous way things always seem to work out. If I had gotten home from the trail run with the Saturday Morning girls earlier, or hadn’t stopped to make coffee and breakfast before changing into cycling clothes, I might have been ready to go a few minutes earlier. Then I would have been at the cycling shop earlier and the tire would have been fixed by 9:30…
It’s the little moments in time that make all the difference. Twenty cyclists rode by a homeless man. Somewhere between the first rider and the last, he fell backwards and began seizing. Timing is everything. Today I’m thankful that all the little moments of my morning aligned to put me in a place where I could help someone.
I did many things today.
I ran 8 miles of trail in South Boulder with a group of fabulous women. I watched the sun rise and the colors of the clouds change from gray to pink to orange before the sun crested the horizon. I felt a warm breeze on my bare arms, pounded up a hill and flew down a technical stretch with the zen-like focus of a warrior.
I drank a beautiful cup of black gold, ate hot food and drove a car through my city to meet strangers for a group bike ride with my sister. Strangers helped me with my gear, other strangers waited for me, and thanks to the quick thinking of my sister, paramedics rushed to the site when a stranger was in need.
I’m troubled and completely aware of the irony of the situation. If the homeless man had been standing I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at him. But because he was on the ground seizing, I stopped.
I don’t know what his name is or how to check on him. The hospital won’t release confidential information. I don’t know where he’ll go after being released. I don’t know if anyone at a shelter knows about him or will wait for his return. I may have saved his life but I doubt I made his life any better.
Today, the strangers I met made my life better. I don’t know if my actions had the same effect on the man who lay incapacitated on the ground.