This Story Will Take Your Breath Away

, , , | Healthy | February 23, 2020

(I work in an inbound 24/7 call centre while studying. We take calls for over 150 different companies and can rarely do more than take their details and have them be called back, but we are not supposed to let the callers know that. On one of my last Saturday night shifts, my coworker receives a call from an elderly man for a company that sells and waits on equipment for patient care, including oxygen tanks for private use. Extra note: on weekends we rarely get any calls, so there are only two people in the office at a time.)

Coworker: “This is [Company]; how can I help you?”

Old Man: “My oxygen tank isn’t working. Please send someone to help me.”

Coworker: “I’m sorry, but we are already closed. I can make a note for support to call you back, but they will only see it on Monday. Do you require the oxygen supply constantly?”

Old Man: “I need my oxygen tank and it isn’t working. Please help me.”

Coworker: “I am really sorry, but there is nothing I can do until Monday. Please hang up and call emergency services; they will be able to help you until we can get your oxygen tank fixed.”

Old Man: “No! These are your oxygen tanks! You have to help me! Please help me!”

(They keep going in circles like this for almost 15 minutes, with the man repeating the phrase “please help me” until he hangs up on my coworker, but not before she has convinced him to tell her his name and address.)

Coworker: “I don’t know what to do. I don’t think he’s going to call an ambulance. What if something happens to him?”

Me: “Maybe we should call an ambulance for him to be sure? You got his address, right? Lack of oxygen can make people very confused, I think.”

(My coworker called our supervisor, because we are not technically allowed to make external calls. He said he didn’t know, either. We could call emergency services if we wanted to, but if the man decided to sue for breach of privacy, it would be on us. I decided to call the non-emergency line instead of my coworker, since they couldn’t fire me, anyway. The operator seemed more than a little weirded out by me calling an ambulance for a stranger I had never seen or spoken to but had an address and a name for, but he thanked me and my coworker for the effort. I never found out what happened to the old man, but I hope he was okay, whether he needed that ambulance or not. Emergency services are completely free here, by the way, for you concerned US citizens out there. PSA: At least around here, if you suspect someone’s life is in danger, you are totally allowed to disregard any data protection slips your workplace had you sign.)

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