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Personal Trauma -- An Unwilling Spectator
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Personal Trauma -- An Unwilling Spectator
Can't really describe what this piece is about, except that it was, for me, a very disturbing and traumatic experience, even if I didn't really see it with my own eyes. Hearing it was bad enough.
[1,234 words]
Roxanne Kendrick
Avid European football fan who loves Juventus, Real Madrid, Italy, Spain, Holland, Alex Del Piero and Raul Gonzalez (and other things included)
[May 2001]
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Personal Trauma -- An Unwilling Spectator
Roxanne Kendrick

    I think I'm still traumatised by it. Add that to knowing that I screwed up Evidence big time, today hasn't been a good day at all.

Today I had my Evidence exam. It was a deceptively simple paper, hence increasing my certainty that I would fail. Some of my more intelligent friends were shaking their heads, and another friend jokingly said he'd see me again for the re-exam. I have no doubt I'd be sitting for that one. My prospective law firm won't like that one bit.

That said, getting past Evidence was one big relief, and I was very very relieved. However, the process was difficult, and I wasn't only referring to the questions. Halfway through my first question, I was stunned to hear a frantic, agonized howl coming from the back of the examination hall (I was sitting somewhere in the area two-thirds from the front). I'm sure most of us in the huge hall heard it, though my friend doubted that the front section of the hall heard it as well.

Most of us turned our heads. The agonized howls continued. From my area, I couldn't see what happened and I was frankly terrified. The invigilators rushed to the back of the hall. I somehow knew someone was in trouble, and so did most of us. As the howling continued, we either kept turning our heads to the back of the hall to ascertain the cause, or barely refrained from doing so. For fear or embarrassment, I don't know. I was just very stunned & I tried to block it out of my mind.

It was hard concentrating on the questions when I could still hear the agonized screams. In the back of my mind, I vaguely figured out the cause but couldn't quite put it to words. I was distraught, to say the least. I was also having a hard time answering the questions because they were so difficult. It was with some relief that the invigilators announced an extra 15 minutes for us because there had happened an unfortunate medical incident. I was glad because I could definitely use that 15 minutes, and I am now ashamed because those 15 minutes came at the expense of someone's agony.

After the exam was over, the natural thing was to complain and moan about how we got our answers wrong or failed to see the issues in a particular question. It certainly elevated the feeling that I'd screwed up the exam, but at that time, I was just really relieved that Evidence was over. It had never been my favorite subject, it would never be. I am sincerely praying for just a pass grade.

I joined some friends for lunch. They were discussing what had happened in the hall. It was someone we all vaguely knew, someone we'd seen around in lectures and tutorials, and exchanged friendly greetings or went for the occasional lunch breaks together. Out of respect for him, I will call him X. A friend said it was definitely an epileptic fit. It was not certain whether X had epilepsy or if he knew he was going to have a fit during Evidence. According to people who were seated closer to X, he'd told the invigilator that he was feeling unwell, and the invigilator asked him to move to the back (or something like that). And it happened. I'm sure my lunch mates felt sorry for X, we'd all seen how the medical team arrived to carry X off in a stretcher. I was too far away to see his expression, but the whole incident traumatised me. Some things need not be seen, the audio effect is equally disturbing. I could still laugh and joke with my lunch mates, but I could no longer finish my lunch (I felt like puking), and now, hours after Evidence ended, I'm still thinking about it and still feeling upset about the whole incident.

I don't know why I still feel traumatised by it. Perhaps traumatised isn't quite the correct word, but I can find no other word to express how I feel at this point in time. It could very well have happened to me, and that was enough to send shivers down my back. During Evidence exam, I could still manage to block it out by fervently concentrating on answering the questions, but now, five hours after the exam ended, I'm still disturbed by it. I never expected anything like this to happen. Throughout my school life, I've never encountered something like that. Now that I've experienced something like that, I'm not likely to forget it in a hurry. Vaguely, I could still picture the invigilators rushing to the back of the hall in a desperate bid to soothe X, to calm him down, to make him feel better. It is not a picture that I want to see, yet I keep seeing it. I think "sorry" is a poor word for how we all feel towards X. We all feel for him, we wouldn't have wished this even on our worst enemies, but what else can we do? The closest thing I've come across regarding epilepsy was reading about it in a storybook, and that kind of glossed over the whole thing. I would not have liked to say that the whole experience was scary, but at that time, I was frankly very afraid, and I'm right now still distraught deep down. One needn't necessarily have watched an epileptic person having a fit. For me, hearing the agonized howls is enough to leave me feeling upset for some time.

I guess this is how we react to most illnesses or diseases. We don't always take a serious attitude towards people who are inflicted with illnesses, and some of us have the mentality that "Oh, it won't happen to me, so why bother?" And even if we do feel for the person, as we felt for X, there is this sense of helplessness about the whole thing. It's as if, we, being unwilling spectators, are also either unwilling to help or unable to help. It's not a nice thing, this helplessness. It brings home the point where we feel that if we can't help ourselves, how can we ever help others? Thankfully, there are others who don't feel this way, or who have gotten past this psychological barrier.

Today however, I was an unwilling spectator. I didn't want any of this to have happened to X, or to anybody for that matter. And besides feeling afraid, I also felt helpless. I felt fascination and horror and terror. I was traumatised. I still am. I'm not sure if I can ease the trauma by writing it out, but right now, I'm at a loss for words. Having never experienced something like that (my uncle's death is a separate matter), having been very distant to the televised trauma of other people, experiencing something like that first-hand is, to say the least, extremely disturbing. It may not equate with true personal loss, such as the loss of a loved one, and I may not lose my sleep by the time night comes, but this incident is not something that I'm likely to forget quickly. And if this incident manages to prick the wall of un-sympathy that I have around me, then perhaps I have grown richer with this traumatic experience at the expense of another.


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© 2001 Roxanne Kendrick
May 2001

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