Friday, July 30, 2010

Mabel Takes a Bath

It was a sunny Friday afternoon (my Monday) and I was working 4 days a week, 10 hours a day, when I began patrol duty at 4 PM. If I was lucky I would return to the precinct by 2 AM, but many days it would be 3-5 AM.  Before my shift I had shined my boots and put on a freshly dry cleaned uniform with military pleats on the shirt and pants. No two days of work are ever the same and this would be a unique day.

I had worked in the Police Crime Prevention Unit for a couple of years and learned a lot about home and business security. One thing I learned was some doors are better secured than others when it comes to kicking them in to gain entry. When police need to enter a locked building, and there is not an immediate need to gain entry we will sometimes call a locksmith that has agreed to volunteer their services to pick a lock rather than kicking in the door.

This day as I left the precinct 911 dispatch sent me to check on the welfare of an 87 year old widow, Mabel (not her real name), that neighbors had not seen for several days. Often these calls result in the discovery of a natural death and a call to their mortuary if they have recently been under a doctor’s care and there is no evidence of foul play or suicide.

When I arrived at the residence I first noticed there were three daily newspapers on the porch and that the lights were on despite the sun being still quite high in the sky. I knocked on the front door several times and got no response. I then walked around back to knock and as I did so I could see the TV was on in the living room. When I got around to the back of the house there was a small dog that was very anxious to have me open the door so he could enter, but the door was locked and it had a very good deadbolt lock on it as well as the standard passage set.

Unfortunately many old people like to live in their home amid familiar surroundings when they get old, but sometimes die there because they have a medical event that disables them and they cannot summon help. I requested that dispatch contact the reporting neighbor so I could gather more background information to be sure Mabel was not out of town and if necessary call for a volunteer locksmith to gain entry without damaging the house.

The concerned neighbor told me Mabel was frail and probably should not be living alone but she didn’t want to live in an assisted care facility. We talked for about 20 minutes when dispatch informed me they could not locate a locksmith that would be willing to pick the lock late on a Friday afternoon. This meant I would have to call out the Fire Department to break the door open or I could do it myself. I was tired of waiting for the locksmith so I asked the neighbor if he would stand by as a witness while I entered the home and checked on Mabel. He was frightened and hesitant but agreed. Most folks don’t like to find a dead body.

Sometimes I don’t know my own strength or the door frame was structurally weak because when I kicked the door the entire door frame and door went crashing down the stairway of the split entry landing. The door did not break and the locks held the door to the frame. The neighbor looked at me like, WOW, that was some kick.

I yelled, “Mabel, are you home?”

It was then I heard a faint voice crying, “Help me, help me.”

I turned to ask the neighbor if he would follow me into the house only to see him running as fast as he could towards his home. That was the last I saw of the neighbor.

I climbed the stairs to the kitchen and called, “Mabel, where are you?”

Again I heard a weak voice say, “I’m in the bathroom.”

As I entered the bathroom there was poor Mabel in an old fashion claw foot bathtub lying on her back. She had been that way for three days.  On the first day, after a couple of hours, when the water got cold, she pulled the plug with her toe, then just laid there shivering and expecting to die.

Mabel was somewhat embarrassed but mostly grateful that help had arrived. She told me she had not fallen down but didn’t have the strength to pull herself out of the tub. I put a large bath towel over her and then picked her up and carried her to her bed.

She kept saying, “Thank you, thank you, I was sure I was going to die in that tub.”

Once she was in bed I covered her up and visited with her until the ambulance arrived. They bundled her up and took her to the hospital for observation. Mabel was very cold and dehydrated.

I once had a partner whose father was a mortician and she got me in the habit of reading the obituaries. For the next couple of weeks I watched for Mabel’s notice but nothing appeared so I concluded she had returned home for a few more baths before she finally checked out of mortality.

The Lord instructs us in James 1: 27 that, “Pure religion and undefiled before God (Christ) and the Father is this, To visit … the widows in their affliction,…” Neighbors that love their neighbor as themselves are following Christ’s teaching in John 13: 3 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Mabel’s neighbor loved her enough to check on her and saved her life.

We all need to be our brother’s keeper and show love and concern for others like we do for ourselves. To learn more about Heavenly Father’s Plan for us to care for each other see or