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Emergency Situation in Germany

26 Mar Posted by in Family Life | 3 comments
Emergency Situation in Germany
I wrote once about Germany having two emergency phone numbers: 112 and 110 (We Don’t Dial 9-1-1 in Germany). I complained about trying to remember which number to dial in an emergency situation and, well, I was totally right.

The Monday before last started almost normally; Fynn stayed home sick, I was nursing the baby on the couch and Kay was on one of his many conference calls.

Kay suddenly came downstairs and said something to the effect of, “The man who walks by our house, the one that sits on the bench… he’s fallen over.”

Me: What?!

Kay: Look.

I rushed to the door with the baby in my arms and saw the man (the unexpected visitor) lying on the ground. I could see through the sparse bushes his dark jacket and white hair lying in front of the bench, and the tail from his dog sticking up over the brush.

I told Kay to call an ambulance and see if he was still alive.

As Kay went over to the man (we’ll call him Rüdiger for the sake of this story [Kay came up with this German name]), Rüdiger’s dog started jumping at Kay.

He’s trying to protect Rüdiger.

I quickly set the baby in the living room. Fynn was entranced in a cartoon on TV so I locked the child gate and went back out to grab the dog.

As I did so, Kay looked up at me and asked, “It’s 1-1-2, right?”

Ok, totally not the time to laugh. I was too freaked out and upset. A simple and polite “Yes!” would suffice. But, hello! Kay is German and if he can’t remember which number to dial, it’s a miracle the foreigner did. Why does Germany have two emergency numbers?

I looped the dog’s leash around a small pedestrian pole checking first its sturdiness then ran over to Kay and Rüdiger.

Rüdiger was laying on his right side in a fetal position, gravel and dirt in his fingernails, but he was blinking. Thank God he was blinking! He is alive.

The dog was barking like crazy so I started to ask, “Wie heisst…” and then turned to Kay, “Ask him his dog’s name.” I thought maybe using his name would calm the dog.

Kay: What’s your dog’s name?

Me: In German, Kay.

Rüdiger tried to mumble something but it was completely inaudible.

Kay: I think he might be drunk?

Me: Kay, he probably had a stroke or something. I better go check on the kids again.

I went back in and the kids were ok, but when I came back out the kindergarten teacher from across the way walked to the fence and asked Kay to move the barking dog as she was afraid for the kindergartners’ safety. Kay had to explain the emergency situation since she couldn’t see Rüdiger lying on the ground from her angle.

“If I need to resuscitate this man for any reason, I can’t have the dog in the way.”

The dog wasn’t being violent (by my standards), but Kay isn’t the best with animals (and I’m putting that nicely). I guess the dog was a bit rowdy. However, considering the circumstances, I understoond he was just trying to look after his owner.

It felt like forever until the emergency trucks came. I still have no clue how many minutes until they appeared or even if I have written all of the events above in the proper order.

As the trucks pulled up, I was standing with the dog trying to calm him and pointing in Rüdiger’s direction so the first ambulance knew where to come to an abrupt halt.

I had no clue such a large vehicle could drive so fast through our shared, narrow driveway. Pretty sure I saw a dust cloud billowing from the rear sides of the truck… and our small road is made from paving stone (a type of brick), not dirt or even sand.

After the two trucks were parked and the medics were attending to Rüdiger, I tried to move the dog where he couldn’t see his owner hoping he would calm down; it worked. Thankfully, just as I was trying to find somewhere else to hook the dog so I could go in with the kids, one of the emergency people took the dog. Apparently they sent in an animal control person.

Kay learned where Rüdiger lives and later that day went to make sure his wife was okay and/or had a ride to the hospital.

We aren’t completely sure what happened to Rüdiger; the last we heard he was in intensive care.

I later learned that our next door neighbor saw Rüdiger around 9:30 a.m. sitting on the bench and didn’t notice anything odd.

Awhile later, her husband walked by and Rüdiger didn’t look right. The neigbor asked Rüdiger if he was ok, to which he replied yes. But our neighbor didn’t get a good feeling (Rüdiger was hunched over drawing with his hand in the gravel/sand, which explains why he had a bunch of sand in his fingernails).

Thank goodness the neighbor called Kay and asked him to keep an eye on Rüdiger. Immediately after the neighbor’s call, Kay looked out the window and saw Rüdiger on the ground. By the time the ambulance left, it was close to noon, so Rüdiger was obviously sitting on the bench for quite some time.

Later that day, I called my mom and told her the story.

My Mom: So, I’ve gotta ask you something. If you were alone, would you have known what to do?

Me: Yes and no. I would have known how to call the ambulance (112), but I would’ve had to speak English in order to not get stressed about remembering German words. But I wouldn’t have known what to do with the kids and the dog all at once. I don’t feel so bad though because obviously Kay (the local) was rattled. And we were working together.

I’m kicking myself now because the week prior, I saw Rüdiger sitting on the bench and although we exchanged hellos, I almost stopped to ask his dog’s name, but was being timid and didn’t. Just goes to show how important it is to really know the people (and their pets) in your neighborhood. I wish I would have talked to him more and gotten over my fear of talking nonsensical German. (Not that the languge itself is nonsensical, only when I speak it.)

I hope he is making a recovery. Prayers and thoughts have been with him and his family these last two weeks.


  1. Judi Fox03-26-13

    Oh wow! That sounds intense! I am glad it worked out. I would also have no idea which number to call. I have only been in Germany for 8 months, but already had one accident (I fell while walking with my baby in the Ergo – I landed on top of him – super super scary!!!) But as luck would have it an emergency vehicle was driving by right as I fell and they saw me fall and attended to us right away. So we never had to deal with which number to call. I hope your neighbor is doing well and gets better soon!!! Sounds like you handled it great – considering how intense it is to go through something like that.

  2. carolee03-27-13

    I think Rüdiger was very lucky to have both of you there, you may have even saved his life.
    That goes to show you that whether or not you can speak a language perfectly, or whether or not you do the exact right thing in an emergency ( and I know you did!), compassion is international!

  3. Connie04-08-13

    I’ve been here over 14 yrs & still can’t remember the right number! A couple of years ago, the gardner (who is from another town) was edging with electric shears & sliced into the end of her middle finger! Panicked, I drove her down the hill to my doctor who is an internist. He informed me that he couldn’t help her that she had to be treated by another kind of doctor that handled cuts (we’re talking 2-3 stitches) & his office was back up the hill a block from my house. He fixed her up & wrote her sick days off from work for the next 2 weeks. I don’t think I will EVER learn how “it” works here! ;) . Hope your neighbor is better soon!

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