Wednesday, May 23, 2012


A recent photo that ran in our newspaper has received a lot of comments from people who find it distasteful. The photo is of a city refuse truck that hit a motorized wheelchair in a cross walk.

The wheelchair was dragged and is seen under the front passenger tire. The man's legs/feet are seen laying midway between the front and back tires. Is it disturbing? Well, yes. But so were the photos from 9-11, tsunamis, earthquakes, and other horrible catastrophes.

Ok, so this is not a national catastrophe. But it's just as important. It's journalism.

Yes, I know it is sad for the family. It's also sad for the driver of the vehicle. I can only imagine what that poor man is going through. God bless him and all the families involved.

It's actually a mild photo. It could be worse. One local television station said (to us, not to the public) "If it bleeds, it leads." 
May 22, 2012 Recorder Photo by Reneh Agha 
That's just the way it is in journalism.

We're there to be the eyes and ears and report what has happened. If we aren't there, we get criticized. If we are, we get criticized. It comes with the territory. 
Are we desensitized? Maybe. I know I'm not shocked by things that happen daily.

Yes, I feel for the families and am respectful to them, giving them space and backing off when they ask me to during certain incidents.

But there are other times when we have to be there, asking questions and reporting. In my job, people either love me or hate me.

I know this sounds morbid, but as an emergency-room nurse, I always got excited with the sound of sirens. Not that I wanted anyone to be hurt but as a way to prepare for whatever was to come in next. You never knew what would come in through the door.

I've seen my share of "horrible" accidents when I worked at the Emergency Department at Sierra View District Hospital. Many of them were horrid - a 3 year old child raped and sodomized; a high school classmate (four years after graduating) with third-degree burns (later died) from a stove explosion; two high school friends who were killed in a car accident; two college friends who had moderate to major head injuries (and neither was ever the same again) after a car accident and a boating accident; two young children (the smell of burned human flesh is probably the worst thing I ever dealt with and it stayed with me a long time) who were brought in from a house fire and died after we tried for two hours to save them; a homeless man whose leg was crawling with maggot; and a man who was shot in the abdomen and brought to the ER by his friends. The car pulled up honking and friends screaming for help. Back then, we'd run out and get them. I was wearing a white nurses' uniform and, as the nurse on duty, helped pull the man out of the car. His blood, feces, vomit and alcohol smeared all over my uniform. Totally disgusting but I was unable to change until we stabilized him. He lived.

In each case, my heart hurt - especially when we had to tell the family that their loved one did not make it. The doctor and a nurse always did that. Many times I was the nurse who went in with the doctor. It was always the same way. We'd call the family into a private room -- usually they suspected what was coming -- and then the two of us would go in. When a different nurse went in, it still got to me. You could never hear the doctor, the news was always delivered in a low, sad voice. But outside the doors - you could suddenly hear the loud wailing and if I happened to glance through the window, could see bodies collapsing to chairs or the floor as they heard the devastating news. I remember times when a person would grab me and cry on me until I helped them to a chair or until another family member stepped in to take the person away. 

They knew we cared. I didn't have to cry with them, though at times I did shed some tears - even the doctor had tears. I was not insensitive then and I'm not now. As I cover death and tragedies (not necessarily with death, but house fires and car accidents) I always remember that this could very well be a loved one. I try to be respectful and sensitive.

But back to the photos -- it's nothing personal -- we're not trying to go out of our way to "sell papers" as people like to say. That's not it at all. 

And if anything - I hope people will realize that this accident could happen to them or their loved one!

PLEASE - always make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of them. I know that pedestrians have the right of way -- but it does no good if you're killed. Who are you going to tell? God? "But God, I had the right of way."

I've been at crosswalks and could start walking - but I look up at the driver and there have been several times where he's looking one way and then starts moving forward without looking back to my side. Had I started crossing in those instances, I would have been killed - well, hit for sure. Please teach your children and tell everyone - no matter what age - to see the driver. It really can be a matter of life and death.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:49 AM

    Of course we are.
    how many millions of little tragedies like this one every second?
    thanks for sharing.