It was only one hour into working on the school project at Unity Centre, day one, when I dropped my trowel over the wall we were building, jumped over to get it, and then was accidentally dropped on some rebar by my brother as he was trying to help me get back up.
I’ll spare you the bloody pictures of my side, and my torn shorts that left my left bum cheek flapping in the breeze. That day though was nothing compared to the day of blood.
Eunice, headmaster of Unity Centre, had additional classrooms started from literally the ground up by World of Difference last year. This year we wanted to build the walls up higher, and give them a more suitable roof.
(The current roof was pieces of old tin tied together on sticks that lay on the top of the wall)
The week was one of the hardest I’ve worked in my years of going.
But day number four was one I’ll never forget. The day started by only a few of us going to Eunice’s ( maybe six, no more than eight people) to see what we could do to help the workers there. The rest of the group were at different projects. Eunice asked us to clean out all of the rocks, gravel, and sand that they had been storing in one of the classrooms. We went to work, back breaking work.
One heavy stone at a time, sometimes rolling the stones by pushing them with our feet, sometimes breaking the stones into smaller, movable pieces, we started to clear out the room.
Eventually, the room started to clear. I had left to go speak to Eunice about the next step in our project. I remember hearing one of the team members yell over to me, ” I think your brother just got hit with a shovel…”
I looked around and saw my brother walking quickly to sit down, holding his hand to his head. I ran over to him, and saw a might knot forming next to his right eye, with a nasty half moon cut on his face. Immediately I grabbed him and we went to the van, and asked the driver to get out the first aid kit. As luck would have it, we rode in the van that had the first aid with hardly any supplies.
What I did have was a 2 x 2 gauze and some type of anti-bacterial ointment, but nothing to hold this onto his ever swelling and bleeding face. Instinctively, I grabbed my sweaty bandanna off my head, and tied it around my brother’s head to try and hold on the gauze and give some pressure to his wound.
I was freaking out, and thought we should probably take him to the hospital to get stitches, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with that. Looking back, I can’t really blame him. I sent a text from Eunice’s phone to our team leaders, as all calls were going straight to voice mail. I wanted them to know a team member was down. I wasn’t getting any response.
One of our team members with us was a Physical therapist, and he examined the head wound, and didn’t think stitches would be needed. We gave him something for the pain, and told him to rest in the van the remainder of the day.
Feeling very lucky that he wasn’t seriously hurt, the rest of us went back to work. A little while later, a second van arrived with more team members. This was good timing as we needed to move a load of 4 x 4 timbers into the classrooms so that they could be lifted up to start building the roof. My brother wasn’t about to sit around while we worked, and against my advice, continued to help at the work site.
His work ethic and commitment to the cause was something I’ll never forget.
As we were carrying the timber, I hear the words ” someone just had a piece of wood dropped on them!”
” You have got to be kidding me…”
I walked to where we were storing the pieces of timber, looking to see who got hurt. As I came to the last classroom, I was horrified by what I saw.
Team member Jill came stumbling out of the classroom with clotted dark blood covering her face and hands. She was shaking uncontrollably, white as a ghost. Her best friend Mary was holding her and trying to walk with her, looking like she was in just as much shock as Jill.
I could feel the “fight or flight” response kick in immediately. I ran to Jill, and Mary and I quickly got her into Eunice’s office. I was yelling for people to get me another first aid kit, water, and towels as Jill was seriously hurt. Luckily, the second van had a fully stocked kit.
Time went into a blur for the next little bit. Blood was everywhere. All I could do was keep my arms around Jill, holding her tight and telling her to breathe, that everything would be ok. Or maybe I was telling that to myself, trying to reassure me, as I wasn’t too sure….
Jill also would not be taken to a hospital. We cleaned the blood from her face, out of her eyes so she could see, and dressed the head wound the best we could. She looked like a victim of battle.
I called the team leaders again to let them know that another team member had been seriously hurt. jD answered this time, calmed me down, and together we decided to have Jill go back to where we were staying, with some other team members, and we would further assess the situation.
I found out later that the first text I sent them about my brother wasn’t received until after the phone call I had telling them about Jill. They thought that he hurt himself after Jill, and called back to tell us all to stop working immediately before there weren’t any team members left.
The day of blood showed me the resiliency of our team. They were committed to making a difference, and their sacrifice was evidence of that. The day showed me how I can handle a crisis situation, and the love that we all have for each other, in good times and bad.
It was a good thing that this was our last day of work though for a couple of days. We all needed to relax and recover.