Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Toe Smashed in Brooklyn

Today, our warehouse sent out a half-dozen or so delivery trucks, filled to the brim with water, clean-up supplies and other items, to be given to various neighborhoods in New York. It's hard to believe that the American Red Cross is still actively assisting the residents of New York - almost four months after Hurricane Sandy - and yet our work here continues. I was assigned to one of those trucks, along with a fellow volunteer, Jerry.

Our destination was a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and we maneuvered our way from Bayonne, NJ, through Staten Island, and then across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which, for awhile, was the world's longest suspension bridge. Once across the bridge, we found ourselves in the unique area known as Brooklyn. Brooklyn calls itself the "center of the universe" - and it was very easy to see, as there are over 93 different ethnic groups, 150 nationalities, and 136 different languages spoken here. I was fascinated as we drove through the pockets of different neighborhoods - each with their own signage, food, and way of's as if each nationality got off the boat at Ellis Island and then just...stopped. Going no further than Brooklyn. Weird - but way cool.

A view from my truck today while driving through Brooklyn....

Once we arrived at our location, Jerry and I quickly sprang into action - as we not only had dozens of boxes to offload, but a staggering five pallets of bottled water to unload. Keep in mind that each pallet holds 72 cases of water - and each case will hold 24 bottles. If you're doing the math - that's over 1,700 bottles of water on ONE pallet. An average pallet can weigh upwards of 2,100 pounds - and if we didn't have any neighborhood help to assist us, it could turn into one long, exhausting afternoon. Gah.

Luck was with us, however, as five local men in the neighborhood showed up to help us - and we decided to use a pallet jack to lift up each pallet, and then slowly roll the water to the edge of the truck, and then down the truck ramp. It would require some skill, muscle and patience, as there was no room for error on maneuvering that pallet down the narrow, long ramp. One mistake - and we would have 1,700 bottles tumbling to the street in seconds. And trust one wants to pick up 1,700 scattered bottles of water out of a rainy, wet, muddy, filthy street.

Everything went well...until the last pallet. This particular pallet had shifted - and the cases of water were leaning precariously in one direction - the "Leaning Tower of Water", if you will. I got on the "non-leaning" side to help stabilize the pallet as we rolled it down the truck and to the ramp...but suddenly, the pallet picked up speed and was careening towards the open end of the semi. Jerry was operating the jack - and hoping to stop the pallet from tumbling off the back end of the truck - suddenly "dropped" the pallet jack - which resulted in the pallet of water dropping to the truck floor...landing on my right foot. Yes. The same foot I had broken not more than 3 months ago.

Major ouch.

Shooting pain....Not able to make a coherent sentence at this point, I began screaming, "UP! UP! UP!" - which was my succinct way of telling Jerry to lift that pallet of water back up and off my poor toes. Poor Jerry. Bless his heart - I've never seen anyone pump a pallet jack as fast as he did so I could quickly pull my smushed toes out from under it...

My immediate reaction was of wanting to cry...but...fuhgeddaboudit (as they'd say in New York City). I wasn't about to cry, surrounded by six big men, five of which are from Brooklyn - the tough guy capital of the world. I was going to be as tough as the best of them, and refused to give in to the tears that were threatening.... One guy immediately took off for a deli down the street, where he quickly ran back with not one, but TWO large cups of ice. Another guy quickly got me up in the cab of the truck so I could elevate my foot to alleviate swelling. They were great...they may be tough on the outside, but their hearts are golden and they will do anything to help out a fellow human being, as I witnessed firsthand today.

I've been resting in the motel since this afternoon...and really, I'm doing fine. There's some bruising, and some swelling, but considering how bad it COULD have been, I came out lucky. To begin with, the fact that the pallet was leaning meant that my foot didn't get the full weight of the water...I was on the "lighter" side, so to speak. What a blessing. Also - my foot was angled slightly, so the pallet came down only on my three outer toes - it didn't hit the big toe or the bones in my actual foot. Nothing broken. Everything is fine. I was also lucky that it was big, strong Jerry operating that pallet jack - he got that sucker lifted in nano-seconds, which most probably, saved my toes from becoming toe-pancakes.

My fellow volunteers within the American Red Cross are special, as well. They rallied around me today, and for that, I'm grateful. One brought me back to the motel and got me settled on the bed with pillows and an ice pack. One went to the grocery store for a bag of frozen peas (which makes for an even BETTER ice pack), as well as ice cream bars, because we all know that ice cream makes every boo-boo better. The volunteer nurse stopped by this afternoon to check on me and bring me pain meds...and several volunteers ordered pizza and we had a makeshift pizza party in my room tonight.

Pizza. Ice cream. Ibuprofen. Frozen peas.

And friends.

What more could a girl ask for?



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