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by Rob H.

last Tuesday morning I was on my way to class at George Brown College when I encountered a person sprawled out in a storefront on Queen Street. This did not seem out of the ordinary, because the area is well known for its alcoholic indigents.

Judging from the odor that was coming off him, I assumed that he was drunk. According to some of the people that were there before me, he had experienced what appeared to be a very serious (grand-mal) seizure. As I looked down at him gasping for breath and trying to regain his composure, it seemed to me that something was peculiar.

The first thing I perceived was that he was dressed nice and was clean-shaven - not at all like your garden variety wino. At this point I decided to approach him to see if I could help in any way, being ever so careful not to crowd him, so that he would not seize again. I then checked his pulse-rate and found it to be slightly elevated.

I asked him his name. he looked up at me glossy-eyed and simply said, "What?" Having dealt with seizure victims in some capacity before, I knew not to frighten him. So, I spoke to him a low tone, expressing to him that he had suffered a seizure and that he should not try to stand up right away. Again I asked him his name. "Brian, Brian Walters" was his response. Seeing that he was somewhat coherent, I then followed the necessary procedure by asking him "do you know what day this is?"; "do you know where you are?" "Saturday night," he said.

At this point he began to stand up. I help to steady him so that he would not fall and injure himself which often happens. We began to walk toward Saint Mikes hospital, located at Queen and Victoria. On the way there I found out that he was on his way to work when he began to see spots. Feeling weak and confused, he sat in the door stoop. This sensation that a person experiences before a seizure is called an aura.

He went on to say that the last thing he could remember was getting off the streetcar because he was feeling strange and needed some air.

When we arrived at the hospital, he shook my hand firmly and thanked me for the help. "Glad to help," I replied. As I was headed back toward the campus, I remember thinking to myself that my assumption that he was drunk was all-wrong. Turns out he was just an average working Joe. Except for the fact that he was an epileptic and had been from birth.

I can recall a time earlier in my life when I was also fooled by what I thought I was seeing. Again the assumptions proved to be my downfall. It was my seventh grade year at Corpus Christi Catholic School. One sunny spring day in May our whole class was scheduled for a field trip to the Ontario Science Centre. While on the way to the subway station we encountered a little old lady talking to herself and making gestures with her hands and arms. At this point, some of the kids that were ahead of me started to make fun of her, calling her names, like "crazy lady" and "bag lady".

Alone she sat on a subway bench with all her worldly possessions in a bundle buggy buried in a green plastic bag, wondering if someone would hear her silent cry to be loved again. Most of her friends have passed away. Forgotten by family, she doesn't care if she lives or dies.

It is a common misconception to assume that a person is 'crazy', rather than sad or lonely, when we see them acting erratically in public. So, if you see a lonely old lady sitting alone talking to herself, she is probably waiting for a kindly word and a smile from you. Reach out to her in some small way by taking some time to see her needs with your actions or words.

reprinted by kind permission of the Alias zine. Alias is produced by a low-income community editorial collective in downtown Toronto. it is available freely if you send them a few stamps. enjoy it, support it.

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