A Helping Hand in a Time of Need

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By Tom Lambert

Bart McNamara had to do a double take when he saw a man sprawled out on a sidewalk by a busy intersection of downtown Kalamazoo.

McNamara was concerned enough to roll down his window and yell at the man to see if he was alright. After a few attempts and clapping his hands, still no response. So, the contractor for Consumers Energy – who was working on a nearby customer-related expansion project –pulled over to call dispatch to do a welfare check.

He had to do something. As he approached, the man could see he was in rough shape and assumed it was because of the 96-degree temperature that was in full force on a sunny August day.

“He was sweating pretty bad and his face was red. He couldn’t speak, he was drooling, his elbows were bleeding and there was a mountain bike next to him. I asked him if he was alright and he shook his head up and down a little,” said McNamara, who works for Planet Forward Group.

He immediately called a co-worker and asked him to bring some bottled water. McNamara stayed with the man to make sure he drank it.

A police officer showed up a little while later to make sure the man was alright. The officer, who thought the man had heat stroke, told McNamara thanks for helping him and he would make sure the man got the help he needed. An ambulance soon came and whisked him away to the hospital.

“If I didn’t do anything to help him out, I just knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night,” McNamara said. “I walked away concerned, not knowing what was going to happen to him and I thought I would never see him again.”

But a few months later, while waiting in the drive thru of a fast food restaurant, McNamara saw the man. He rolled down his window and spoke to him. He asked if he recognized him and the man said he didn’t.

Then McNamara mentioned the mountain bike that was next to him. And the man instantly remembered.

He told McNamara that he had heat stroke and had to spend the night in the hospital. He hadn’t eaten, was severely dehydrated and fell off his bike. He thanked McNamara for looking out for him.

“I told him  I was glad he was still with us,” McNamara said.

He said he has thought about the experience and something was unsettling for him.

“That guy may have been laying there for who knows how long,” he said. “That’s a busy intersection and a lot of people just went by when the guy was nearly unconscious. Nobody stopped to check on him.”

McNamara said maybe people just didn’t want to get involved. He handled the situation like he would on a job site.

“If you see something wrong, you have to say something or do something,” he said. “With all that’s going on in the world, it doesn’t compare to the health and well-being of our fellow humans. That’s more important than anything.”

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