I had a disturbing experience at the Walmart today.

I had gone to Staples to pick up an Ethernet hub for my client and to look for racking suitable for putting my server PCs on, in order to get them off the carpet in my office. I got the hub, but as Staples didn’t have appropriate racking I decided to stop at Walmart on my way out of town.

As I went in the front door, I was presented with a bizarre tableaux; eight or ten people huddled around a prone figure in the middle of the walkway. As I approached, several people in Walmart uniforms were helping an elderly woman onto a hastily-produced chair. The woman was bleeding profusely from the face; there was a puddle of blood on the floor. A manager-type was asking if the woman needed an ambulance; in point of fact, the manager was telling the woman that she did not need an ambulance. At the same time, a separate manager-type was thrusting paperwork at an elderly man, apparently the victim’s husband, trying to get a signature on some piece of paper.

As I got closer, I could hear that the woman was hyperventilating. I identified myself as an EMT; no one acknowledged me. I again stated that I was an EMT, a bit louder this time. One of the manager-types glanced at me and went back to trying to get the elderly man to fill out paperwork. The elderly woman had paper towels clutched in her hand, pressed to her bloody face.

I turned around and ran back to my car. I grabbed my radio from the front and my medical bags from the back, then ran back inside. As I approached with my gear, I stated loudly that I was an EMT and was going to assess the patient. One of the manager-types challenged me; “Are you an EMT here in town?”

As though that mattered. I considered telling her that I was both state and nationally registered, but finally just said, “I work with XXX Ambulance”, XXX being the paid service that transports patients from my own town and is based in the same town as the Walmart. I am affiliated with XXX Ambulance for the purposes of streamlining the legal aspects of my EMT work with the fire department, so I was telling the truth. Again, not that it mattered.

The manager-type was clearly disappointed that she could not tell me to buzz off.

I started to work up the patient. She had big gashes to both lips and a major bruise to one of her shins. I asked her what had happened; she pointed to a low matte-black cart nearby that I had not noticed until she pointed it out. “I tripped over that,” she said. She seemed to think that it was her fault; even though I had been at the immediate scene for a minute, I had not noticed the cart. It was not her fault as far as I could tell. The actions of the managers, trying to get the husband to sign a release simultaneously while attempting to get the woman to agree not to call an ambulance, were craven and sick, and clearly indicated that they realized that the store had some liability.

I gave the woman a sterile sponge to replace the wads of paper towels. I asked for an ambulance; a bystander, not a Walmart employee, said that one had been called. The manager seemed unhappy with this news.

I checked out the leg injury, a significant bruise, and worked up from there.

The woman had been speaking to her husband while walking down the corridor. Neither one of them had seen the empty cart until she had walked into it, striking it hard with her leg, tripping over it. She fell straight onto her face, deeply gashing both lips and hitting her nose. Her teeth hurt, she was dizzy, and her upper back had point tenderness. She was tachycardic with a pulse of 108.

Around this time, a local cop showed up, then a squad from XXX Ambulance. I knew the squaddies; actually, I had worked an attempted suicide by car yesterday that these two EMTs had transported. I gave them the run-down on the patient. The lead EMT and the patient came to the conclusion that she should go to the hospital. While this discussion was occurring, I gathered up my tools and put my trauma bag back in order. As I was going out to put my bags in the ambulance and get the cot, some bystander stopped me and thanked me for helping. She was obviously less than impressed with the Walmart response.

I helped the squaddies put the woman on the cot and wheeled her to the rig. We put her in. I hopped in back and made myself useful while the ambulance crew did the usual things; took a full set of vitals, started O2 and a heart monitor due to the dizziness, and placed a line.

The crew replaced my sponge, I wished the patient good luck, then I grabbed my bags and took them back to my car. I went back into the Walmart to get on with my shopping; there were now several orange cones and two employees protecting shoppers from the nearly-invisible cart.

Walmart did not have racking.

I got to my client’s factory about a half-hour later. I called the emergency department at the hospital that I knew had received the patient, identified myself, and asked that the staff give the patient my name and phone number in case she ran into problems with Walmart.

I was stunned and disappointed by the disregard and idiocy shown by the Walmart managers. I can only imagine that community-minded Sam Walton must be spinning in his grave.

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