Somewhere around the late morning of Oct. 3rd, 86-year-old Vera Shepper was checking out her groceries at the Trader Joe's in downtown Santa Cruz, California when out of nowhere, an out-of-control child bolted into her, knocking the elderly woman to the ground. As Shepper writhed in dizzying pain on the floor, she saw an adult's hand reach down -- not to help her, but to grab the wrist of the child and say "Let's get out of here."
It's a shocking memory and one of the first things Shepper relates as she tells the story. "This little blonde girl -- she was maybe five -- just ran right into me at my knees and I fell to the ground. I didn't know my hip was broken at the time but it was pain like I never felt before. And then her mother's hand comes down and grabs her with a 'let's go, let's go'."
Shepper's daughter, Mary Rose [whose son Adam Rose is the Huffington Post Standards Editor], says the incident was upsetting for multiple reasons -- both that her active, independent mother broke her hip and needed a surgical replacement, but also that in a show of callousness, a parent who had not been supervising her child in a public place opted to ditch responsibility further and flee the scene.
Mary Rose wrote this letter, which appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
"To the woman with two young children who left Trader Joe's early Thursday afternoon after your daughter, running full tilt and unrestrained, knocked my 86-year-old mother to the ground:
"Since you didn't bother to stick around, I thought you'd like to know what happened. My mother was taken to the emergency room in excruciating pain. She underwent surgery for a partial hip replacement and is facing long-term rehab, discomfort and expense. This didn't have to happen. Your child was out of control in a public place, endangering others as well as herself.
"The police say it's not a crime, but I disagree. What have you taught your child about responsibility when you flee the scene without bothering to see if the victim is all right and, at the very least, apologizing? Can we look forward to a hit-and-run with an automobile next?"
Rose says that Trader Joe's has been "very nice" and "responsive" to what occurred in its store. She said the manager told her that the incident was brought up at the next morning's staff meeting with a discussion about how to approach customers who let their children run unsupervised around the store. The Trader Joe's Santa Cruz store management declined to comment to The Huffington Post about the incident and referred all questions to its corporate public relations spokesman, who did not return our calls at the time of publication.
Rose says she is concerned about her mother's ability to continue to live independently. "Will she need a walker or a cane to get herself to the supermarket now? Will she need someone to take her? How will this change her life, long-term?"
Shepper lives in a senior housing unit alone. Until this incident, she regularly walked the six blocks to the market and lived completely without assistance. Her recovery has been a little bumpy. After her hospital discharge post-surgery, she was moved to a rehab center. But she began suffering heart palpitations and was readmitted to the hospital. She is now back in rehab, receiving physical therapy and learning how to use the walker with which she will be discharged.
"I can't wait to get out of here," said the feisty Shepper. "I've always been very physical and just lying around here is killing me."
But, she adds, she is worried about how she will manage things when she gets home. And what she really doesn't understand, she said, is "why the mother never even said she was sorry or offered to help me get up."
Falls within the elderly population are frequently blamed for the start of a downward health cycle. Falls are the biggest reason why seniors wind up in nursing homes, with one in three adults 65 and older falling every year, according to the CDC.