Gave cell phone to fire victim
May 24, 2009 11:26 AM   Subscribe

I gave my cell phone to a badly burned fire victim and she took it with her to the hospital in the ambulance. It was covered in blood. I dont want it back. I have no phone insurance. I'm with Sprint. Any provision for a replacement if the phone is lost in in a life saving circumstance? WARNING: graphic details inside.

A woman crashed her truck into a house, hit the propane tank and it exploded in a huge fireball. I found the lady. This happened second house down from us. She had somehow got out of the burning truck. The truck, propane tank and house EXPLODED in a huge, I mean huge fireball. I mean massive it was like one of those movie scenes.She was toasted. Her skin was hanging off her in huge sheets nearly all of her skin was burnt off and her dress was all burnt away. 39, pretty. She kept asking me,"... is my face burnt, is my face burnt?" When I found her she was trapped between the fire and a 10 foot rock wall. She climbed up the fucking wall to me. I dont know how she did that. Her hands were all burnt and bloody. We called 911 and her dad. Some other people stopped to try and help: it was a war zone. Then we almost got hit by falling power lines that were on fire! She has my phone. I'm not sure if she is going to live. I dont want my phone back. I'm going to try to get a new one today.

Any approach or provisions on getting a replacement phone from Sprint at zero or low cost in this sort of circumstance?
posted by Muirwylde to Human Relations (30 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
In the end, you can only call Sprint and ask them. I think you know this already.

You should think about seeking therapy to deal with the traumatic after-effects of what you've witnessed. This unnecessary disclosure of the graphic details of your experience suggests that you're having a hard time dealing with it. It must have been horrible. I wish you luck.
posted by felix betachat at 11:36 AM on May 24, 2009 [39 favorites]

First of all, kudos on sticking around and helping out. It should not be taken for granted that you did.

As to the question, I would also recommend talking to a Sprint representative. If there is a case where they would help out, sounds like this would be it. Bottom line is that there is another human at the other end of the phone line.
posted by eytanb at 11:50 AM on May 24, 2009

I tell you what, I've got three Sprint phones with clean ESN. They are all in excellent condition. One is a red Motorola Razr, one is a Sanyo S1, and the third is a Blackberry 8703e. If Sprint gives you a hard time, pick one, send me a MeFi mail, and I'll ship it out to you, free of charge, no strings attached.

Good on you for sticking around like you did.
posted by 4ster at 11:56 AM on May 24, 2009 [119 favorites]

I've got a Sprint phone I deactivated moving to another carrier. Can I send that to Muirwylde without screwing up anything (personal data, etc--I know nothing about cell phones)?
posted by rikschell at 11:57 AM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Metafilter community, thank you. I'll process this info and make a decision. The offers are truly and profoundly appreciated. Felix betachat I didnt need to feel guilty on top of what I am already feeling. The metafilter community is not just about benign HTML questions. I turned to metafilter because I understand that we are truly a community and I value that highly. Good things happen and sometimes really bad things happen. There were things to be learned in the details especially the falling power line thing. Above all this is a feeling community. I didnt need to feel bad for posting details. Fair warning was given. It was your comment that was unnecessary and really not helpful. I know I am traumatized and also got the adrenaline rush and was and may be in a form of shock. The rest of you, thank you so much. I will talk to Sprint today and post the results tonight.
posted by Muirwylde at 12:19 PM on May 24, 2009 [10 favorites]

Should have previewed. :( Maybe a good MeFi project could be cell phone recycling?
posted by rikschell at 12:19 PM on May 24, 2009

If Sprint are asshats about it, call your local news media and let them know. The media loves a good human interest story and a good hero (you), and the corporate honchos hate bad publicity (which it will be if they don't replace your phone).

You're an excellent human being.
posted by scratch at 12:32 PM on May 24, 2009

Muirwylde, I don't think felix betachat was trying to make you feel guilty for anything. By "unnecessary," I gather he meant that those details were not relevant to your question, not that you're bad person and should feel bad for posting them. Given your reaction to his (what I felt was) innocent suggestion may be further proof that you're having a tough time dealing with what you witnessed and need a friend or counseling right now. This isn't a guilt trip either, by the way, and double the kudos to you for helping someone in need. I hope you're able to find a solution to the phone situation. I don't know what Sprint will tell you, seeing as they've probably heard every excuse in the book to get a phone replaced, but best of luck.
posted by katillathehun at 12:32 PM on May 24, 2009 [9 favorites]

Muirwylde, I think you're reading judgment or insult where (I don't believe) Felix betachat intended any. I don't want to speak for him, but I took it mean that technically you could've asked the question without all the details, in that they were not necessary to get the information you seek. I don't think the question was really about the information-- the real point of the question was to give you a chance to vent about the horrible things you saw to get them out of your brain. Felix betachat was showing concern that you possibly also follow up with a therapist because of the trauma.
posted by sharkfu at 12:39 PM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Muirwylde, I don't hear felix betachat being judgemental, but compassionate. The point was just that you told us more information than was needed to answer the question, so you probably needed to be releasing some of the stress of this trauma. Please reconsider your reaction.

The state of California is one place that has a recompensation fund for good samaritans, but I couldn't find anything similar for Hawaii -- I know my own state doesn't either. Perhaps a social service agency such as the Red Cross could give you some suggestions.

At worst you could record it as a casualty loss on your federal tax return, if you file Schedule A already.
posted by dhartung at 12:40 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm sorry if my wording was unclear or hurtful to you. I certainly didn't want you to feel judged. In fact, I concur with everyone above: you did the right thing in a very difficult situation. But the language of your description is extremely vivid and its emotional intensity goes well beyond what's necessary to answer your specific question about a telephone replacement. It felt to me like you're replaying the event in your head, and that you felt the need to replay it as well in a public forum like AskMe. We're not qualified here to help you work through this productively. We can reaffirm that you're a good person who did a good thing (you are, and you did). But to put those traumatic events into their proper perspective, you're going to need a competent professional.
posted by felix betachat at 12:48 PM on May 24, 2009 [25 favorites]

Best answer: The Maui Red Cross office is at (808) 244-0051. Please call and see if you are eligible for crisis counseling.
posted by dhartung at 12:54 PM on May 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

Wow, I commend you on your actions and that must have been an intense experience. You really showed great character - rare these days.

I shot a note to the paper that posted this article about the accident - I figured a local source might know of a way to procure a replacement ( hopefully Sprint will step up - but somehow I dont expect them to) and to see if they are going to post a follow up article about the victim's status.

I hope you follow up if it helps you deal with the experience - maybe contacting the victim's father to ask how the person is doing will bring the experience some closure if you find it is troubling you after some time passes.
posted by clanger at 1:09 PM on May 24, 2009

I suspect the phone company will step up. If they don't, a little note to your local media outlet might help.
posted by acoutu at 1:29 PM on May 24, 2009

From the article clanger linked: "She said a woman was talking on a cell phone and missed the turn, and ran off the road," he said. "There's a drop-off up the road, and there's a house in a small gulch, and she hit the house. The car started burning, and then the house caught on fire," he said.

I would guess that the news would definitely be interested in pursuing this, and Sprint in resolving it without publicity. Imagine the story: The woman was talking on her cell phone, ran off the road and into the house, then she borrows another person's cell to call her dad and 911... and potentially Sprint won't give a good Samaritan a replacement phone? That sounds like a cell phone company's nightmare.
posted by Houstonian at 1:40 PM on May 24, 2009

Jesus, jayder. What the hell.

I'm sorry this happened to you and I'm sorry it happened at all.

When you call Sprint, ask to speak directly to a manager. Just tell the operator it's nothing personal, but you were part of a horrible accident in which you gave a victim your phone and you need to speak to someone with the authority to replace it. Just stay calm and repeat this as necessary. Try to stay unemotional - this will be hard, but try - and tell the manager what happened. Organizations are made up of people, after all, and I would be really surprised if you told someone at Sprint this story and they didn't want to help you. If you are unfortunate enough to get someone on the line who won't pony up a replacement phone to a person who helped someone through this sort of horrific event, just keep going up the food chain until you get someone who will. Again, just try to stay calm and focused, tell your story, and persist until you get the replacement phone you need. If that fails, screw 'em, and take 4ster up on their generous offer.

Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 2:20 PM on May 24, 2009

Best answer: Use Sprint's executive customer service number, it should get you better results.

Or if you're a Consumerist reader: 703-433-4401
posted by Sufi at 2:29 PM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree that you sound pretty traumatized, which is a completely reasonable reaction. And for that reason, I'm thinking it might make sense to have someone else contact Sprint for you. Do you have a friend or family member who can take care of this? I think it's easier to explain the situation if you're not the person processing the trauma.

I really don't think this is going to be a problem. This seems like a pretty compelling reason to replace a phone.
posted by craichead at 2:41 PM on May 24, 2009

Response by poster: Overwhelmed. My approach with Sprint didnt have much oomph and I can usually negotiate pretty successfully. They offered an inexpensive replacement for my Samsung A900. I know the giveaway phones they have have poor audio quality but I didnt have it in me to fight for the upgrade or my wits about me enough to ask for a manager so faculities are more compromised than I realized. The solutions have been posted by fellow mefi's in this thread and I've highlighted those that brought some clarity to the circumstance. Will gather myself and act on those suggestions in a day or two. I'm humbled and grateful and I apologize to Felix.
posted by Muirwylde at 3:17 PM on May 24, 2009

Wow, you're amazing. I really hope you are able to sort through this.

Do you have any sprint stores near you? I have sprint, and I can never seem to get a manager on the phone when I call. However, the store managers love to play hero and look like they have power when you go in the store. If this is an option, consider taking someone with you for help.

Please post to let us know how it goes.
posted by Lullen at 4:44 PM on May 24, 2009

You might also want to think twice before following Felix Betachat's well-meaning advice.

Trauma debriefing 'ineffective'.
Stiff upper lip beats stress counselling
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:58 PM on May 24, 2009 [5 favorites]

Do you have a contract renewal coming up soon? You could try going into the store and explaining that you got a cheap replacement for the phone that you lost helping someone out in an accident and ask if it's possible to upgrade *now.*

I've gotten boatloads of messages from Verizon asking me to upgrade my phone a year before my contract ends and they'll give me FREE STUFF! I think the phone companies, like everyone in this economy, are kind of desperate. It doesn't hurt to ask if renewing your contract could save you money on a phone that's of the same quality as the one you lost.

I would recommend dealing with this at a store. I had to do a bunch of messy phone canceling during my divorce a few years ago and the sales clerk really sympathized for me and found a bunch of loopholes to save me a ton of money. Dealing directly face-to-face helps personalize the interaction and makes it about *you* and not "Faceless Customer #95" - I've found that in tough situations, going in person makes all the difference in the world.

And a million kudos to you for doing a truly noble thing.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:59 PM on May 24, 2009

If dealing with Sprint is too overwhelming, I recommend you take one of the above offers, even if just to have a phone to use until you get things sorted.
posted by theora55 at 5:05 PM on May 24, 2009

Best answer: Muirwylde

I got a reply from a staff writer at the news site I linked earlier. She asked if I had your name or contact number (I'd linked your article in my email to them)

I mefi-mailed the whole thing to you with her contact info - you may wish to get in touch by email and then phone if you like.

Let me know if you dont get the Mefi-mail to your account and I can get it to you another way.
posted by clanger at 9:01 PM on May 24, 2009

Muirwylde, do you remember which store & which manager/employee turned you away with a crappy phone? I feel like letting off some steam on a jerk.
You're awesome, and you did a good thing.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:21 PM on May 24, 2009

PeterMcDermott, as liketitanic said, it's hard to tell what therapies will work for certain people. I was treated with EMDR therapy for PTSD, a therapy that remains somewhat controversial because it doesn't always work for everyone.

Muirwylde, you did a great thing. I was in a car accident two weeks ago and a lady jumped out of her car and asked what she could do for me, what I needed. I handed her my phone and told her to call my mom for me. She just did that tiny little thing and I have so much gratitude for her doing that for me, and for just being there during a scary time.

Thank you for being a good person. Please get help if you need it, and it sounds like you might. It's okay to feel the way you're feeling.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:47 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course you are overwhelmed. You must feel completely exhausted right now. That kind of fear and stress and adrenaline takes a toll. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this all right now. I hope you don't have to go back to work or deal with anything more than, "sky blue, trees pretty," for a while once this phone thing is all straightened out.

That lady was really fortunate to have you there when she most needed a helping hand. Please find someone to lean on for a little while yourself now, okay?

Good on you for all that you did. You can relax now. Let the damn cell phone thing go. The world can go on spinning without you for a few hours or days or whatever it takes. Now it's just time for you to recover.
posted by misha at 10:41 AM on May 25, 2009

Best answer: Hi Muirwylde,

I kind of understand what you're going through. About ten years ago I was the first person on the scene of a terrible motorcycle accident. Luckily for the victims there was a fire station 500 yards away or the one would have bled to death very quickly (I presume he did not, I'll never know). This is how I make sense of it in the aftermath anyway, my only concrete memories were screaming to my girlfriend in the car to call 911 and watching a swarm of EMS responders arrive (in infuriatingly slow motion of course) as this guy was bleeding out underneath my best beach towel and t-shirt emergency compress. What details I remember still give me cold sweats.

You did the most human thing you could have possibly done and when you get things sorted out that will mean something. In the meantime, this is going to haunt you. I say this because I've witnessed plenty of tragedy, including violent death, but this accident was a lot more difficult to get over because, well, this person was dying and I was the only person in a position to help. Not that I was thinking about that at the time, but you know, we're very aware of our multiple awarenesses in times of crisis I've come to believe, and this was the most immediate crisis I've ever experienced.

What I see you doing with the cell phone reminds me of how I tried to maintain order by insisting that we continue on to the beach because that was the most normal conclusion I could have imagined. We made it (minus the good time) after I stopped at the local convenience store and spent 15 minutes laying in their walk-in cooler. I see some of this coping in your insistence of getting your phone replaced. I could be wrong of course, but I hope you do get it replaced as I think it will help just as me making it to the beach helped. It was a matter of reaffirming sanity and control.

If you are like I was you are pretty much a raw wire right now. So full you feel empty. One thing I hope you do better than I did was know what you needed to do to cope once the initial shock of it wears away. I probably should have talked to someone, but I was always taught that you just deal and move on. I'm not sure that was the best option for me at the time, even though I turned out fine, maybe even a little stronger. It could have been a little easier though I think if I had some outside perspective on what I was going through. I guess what I'm saying is that you should not be afraid or feel bad about taking what you need to deal with this in whatever way you need to deal with it.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:33 PM on May 25, 2009 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I want to mark all of your responses as the best answer.

Thank you, each and everyone of you. Such wonderful, caring concern and really helpful insight. Very, very powerful stuff all of you. Thank you so, so much. I have been doing the stiff upper lip thing but wont discount therapy at some point. I am an advocate of therapy. I am letting 'the phone thing' go right now. Just doesn't seem that important (one mention among many importnt mentions). I called my own cell phone # that day and left a message in voicemail with the hope that someone would have the where-with-all to check voicemail.

Today I got a call from the victims friend (I am assuming boyfriend. I know the victims name but out of respect for privacy I'll withhold it here). I believe it was a very strong and meaningful conversation for both of us. Someone also had the foresight to turn the phone 'off' because the charge wouldnt have lasted until today even though it happened to be fully charged. He did not know that I was the person that found his friend at the scene so I calmly (and yes, less I was still in full adrenal mode when I wrote that), relayed the unfolding of events as I remember them.

I related how calm, composed, coherent and unpanicked she had remained in the face of her severe burns. I realize some of that composure was shock and adrenaline but it is still something I wanted to share with him. I told him exactly where it had happened and was successful in communicating this to him because I live in a distinctive log cabin (kind of a landmark) and that it happened just 100 yards from my home.

Not knowing details must have been frustrating, so it was very satisfying to share with him what I knew. I conveyed that I was her first contact immmediately following the crash, explosion and fire; what she had said and what happened subsequently.

He asked me how I thought it happened and I offered my opinion without any judgement. I really have none. He let me know he had flown with her along with her sister in law via Medi-vac flight to Straub Medical Clinic on Oahu (90 miles away). Straubs burn unit is highly regarded. He mentioned the phone and offered to replace it (I declined). Phone seems insignificant and of course it actually is.

I, of course, wanted to know her prognosis and he sensed this and related that she is a'fighter' (her wall climb confirmed that{!}) and that doctors are "optimistic" but she needs to get through the next 'few days'.

Those that are inclined; please add her to your prayers.

A special note to those who mefi-mailed me. I read your notes, actions and concerns and they were very very meaningful. I will contact the Maui News as I seem to be the missing link in their reporting as they seem to have very sketchy details. Some beautiful souls on Mefi and I am very proud to be a member of this community. I will, I think, swallow my pride; take the easy road (it is hard for me to 'take') and humbly accept a de-activated phone so generously offered. I will contact you via mefi-mail. Each and everyone of you deserve an individual response. Thank you again.

Some random notes.

Watch out for the power lines in this sort of a situation; the line that fell was only the fiber optic cable but we were so deep into the crisis 'on the ground' we failed to see the lines were on fire and they burned through and nearly hit us as they fell.

know how to 'unlock' your phone when it goes into 911 mode. It locks into this mode because they want to call you back / locate you, I suppose, if they lose contact. My daughter says there is a sequence to unlock this but I had to turn the phone off and then on before the victim "M" could call her family. This was enormously stressful and frustrating.

Hug and kiss the ones you love.
posted by Muirwylde at 10:57 PM on May 25, 2009 [20 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: Father of burn victim came by today to thank me. It has been eleven days since the accident. "M" was burned over 85% of her body and as been on a ventilator since the 24th. It was removed today and she called her mom and dad and spoke with them. Three to four months more recovery in the hospital followed by two years of skin grafts. 4ster sent me a phone. A Razr. Red. Immaculate condition. My Samsung A900 with more scars than a Mongol warlord (returned by "M"s father today) is currently resting on my bible. Seemed appropriate though I am not particularily religious. It gets an honourable discharge. I'm giving it a burial at sea in a few days.
posted by Muirwylde at 12:02 AM on June 4, 2009 [20 favorites]

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