Thursday, February 8, 2007

"We're on FIRE????"

I have not yet discussed with the blogging world my profession. I work for an agency that supports adults with mental and physical disabilities. I greatly enjoy my job. I have been with this agency for nearly 5 years and have been blessed beyond belief with great jobs and fabulous friendships. I felt a calling to work with this population when I was in college and immediately upon graduating I began working direct care for this agency. My job has challenges every day and every day I laugh, cry and rejoice with someone. I want to tell a story of an event which tested my passion at the beginning of career, it's notoriously known around here as "The Van Story."

I was asked to work some overtime and drive down to a camp where 8 of our participants had spent the last week and pick those ladies up and bring them home. An easy way to earn a few extra dollars so I was on board. I had not met many of these ladies as I had only worked for the agency for about 2 months. I arrived at work around 10 a.m. to get the van and get moving. Another staff who I had not met was going with me. She agreed to drive down to the camp and then I would drive back. Easy as pie, or so I thought.

We load up in the 15 passenger van to travel the hour down the interstate to the camp. Let me describe this beautiful piece of equipment they called a was circa 1985 (this event was in 2002), had no power steering left and the steering wheel shook the entire time you were driving, regardless of how fast you were going. The van's air conditioning was no more and it was August. But it moved and the radio worked!

As we traveled down the interstate we recognized that the console between the driver and the passenger seat was getting hot and the other girl's pb and j sandwich melted...yes, melted. We just passed it off as the temperature and lack of A/C.

So we get to the camp...oh, did I mention that this is in the mountains of Kentucky...where gaurdrails are few and far between? We get the ladies and their luggage ready to go. One of the ladies had fallen the previous day and had stitches in one knee. I spent 20 minutes talking to camp staff about how to care for the injury and finally we were on our way. We discovered that the ladies had not eaten lunch yet and it was close to 1 p.m.

I asked everyone if they had money and even made them show me their money...most did so we decided to stop at a McDonalds by the interstate. Once arriving at the McDonalds it was evident that the money they had shown me was a dollar here or a penny there because very few had enough money to purchase lunch. I ended up purchasing several lunches, including my own.

Now as I had mentioned previously I did not know many of these ladies so I let the majority of them order whatever they wanted, you know, Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, etc.

So we eat, pee, and board the van again. I thought we were home free. Boy was I wrong.

About 5 miles from our exit the van jerks and a huge puff of smokes shoots out the back. I passed it off for bad exhaust and slowed down a bit, after all we were heading up a hill. As we were traveling up the hill a car pulls up next to us and rolls down their window. They were attempting to communicate to me. I turned down the radio to hear what they had to say. It went something like this,

"We have a flat tire?"
"WE'RE ON FIRE?????!!!!!!"

Yes I yelled the last statement to a van full of disabled women. Hysteria set in immediately. Screaming, crying, etc.

I pulled the van over onto the side of the road and jumped out. As soon as I hit the ground, my legs gave and I nearly fell over. I began to tell myself I could do this I could do this. We hurried and got everyone out of the van and called for help (Praise God for handy cell phones!).

Rest at ease, when I turned the van off, the flames and smoke which were apparently shooting out of the bottom of the van, IMMEDIATELY BELOW ME!, diminished.

We assisted everyone over to the opposite side of the guardrail for safety. This entailed walking to the end of the guardrail with one lady (about 1/4 of a mile) and then back down to everyone else because she refused to climb over it.

So the story should end here, but oh no it does not! As we are standing waiting for the rescue team there are a lot of conversations which go like this:

"What about my suitcase?"
"Your suit case is fine, the van is not on fire now."
"It was on fire?"
"Yes, but we are fine now."
"My suitcase is going to burn up!!!"
"No, it is okay, I promise."


"I'm hot!"
"We all are hot!"
"When are they coming to get us?"
"Very soon I promise."

(Lots of promises made that day!)

And on and on. Well, then the unthinkable happens...the Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, Large cokes set in....bathrooms are needed. Of course I was not pulling over to try to find a secluded area so we are in a wide open area with nothing around for shelter. We are able to take one of the ladies down the hill to squat and pee...except she cried instead of peeing...lovely. Then the Big Mac really did set in. One of the ladies stated she needed to do more than pee. We asked her to wait until we could get back on the road and to a restroom, but mother nature did not allow such. And here goes the diarrhea, down her shorts, into her shoes...oh it was a sight.

Thus new conversations ensued:

"She stinks!"
"I'm standing over here."
"When can we go home?"

We decided to try to clean her up the best we could with supplies from the van and then when the new van got there to pick us up we would help her change. So we go to the van and what do we find, but 1 glove and 1 paper towel. Count them...1! So the supplies were short and the diarrhea continued, it was a disaster.

Finally, nearly 2 hours later, the replacement van shows up...always fast service when there are 10 people standing on the side of the interstate in August (and wouldn't you know no one once stopped to see if we needed help).

Our first order of duty, getting poopy pants changed. So, out come the suitcases and where was the one suitcase we needed? STILL AT THE CAMP! How could this happen? We are able to borrow clothing from someone else and use the fully stocked replacement van to get the situation under control. And finally we are off and running again.

It was encouraging to find out that they decided to just tow away the van to the junk yard and the next week a brand new van was purchased. So the running joke is if we need something new, just let Jessica use the old one.

Yes, I still work here...5 years and counting and stories continuing!

This is just the first installment of many work adventures. Tune in for more stories, coming soon. Some even involve other vans!

1 comment:

Janelle said...

I love that story! I just found your blog through WFMW and love it! I'll be back. It's nice to have another working mom who's blogging, I feel like we're a minority :-)