Recently, in a small town in western France, a father was at home with his two little children, aged five and two, while his wife was working the late shift in a town 12 km away. Suddenly the father collapsed and fell to the floor and did not respond to the questions of the five year old boy.
The boy decided he needed to go tell his mother. He put on a jacket, got on his bike and started down the road. He had gone three km when a farmer, on his way home from a night school art course, saw him and stopped him to see what was wrong. The boy had only his pyjamas under his jacket and flip-flops on his feet. It was dark, raining and cold, the boy was soaked and shivering. He told the farmer, “My papa is dead.”
The farmer put the boy in his car to warm up, while another passer-by phoned the emergency number. The boy did not know his family name or his address. The emergency services called the mayor of the town of 2,000. He digested the little bit of information the farmer and the boy could give and suggested an address. The ambulance went to that address and found the father, who was not dead but had suffered a heart attack, and transported him to the hospital.
The father was soon able to return home to recuperate. I trust that after such a tumultuous night the little boy got at least a day off of school.
This story reminded me of an incident that made the news while we were living in Montréal. A young mother had a severe type of diabetes and worried what would happen if she went into a diabetic coma while her husband was at work. She tried to teach her three year old daughter how to dial 911, but the little girl seemed to think it was a game and the mother gave up, thinking the child was just too young.
One day it happened – the mother slipped into a diabetic coma. The little girl went to the phone, picked up the receiver and pushed 9-1-1. When someone answered she said “Maman bobo” (French for “Mommy owie”), put down the phone and opened the door to wait for help to arrive.
In short order all the king’s horses and all the king’s men were there (in this case a fire rescue truck, then an ambulance and then a police car). With all these people trained in emergency health care the mother was soon brought out of the coma and then taken to hospital to be checked out. The husband arrived at the hospital to find that all was now well and he was soon able to take his family home.
Undoubtedly, these two little children saved the lives of their parents. Children should be taught their full name, their street address and the number to call in case of emergency (911 in North America, 112 in Europe). Never underestimate a child’s ability to help.