“I can’t get out” I shouted into the holes in the silver panel that I assumed were speakers

I’m stuck in a lift.

“Are you getting help?” The voice says to me on the loudspeaker.

I go to reply, “Well, that’s why I’m calling you” However a man from outside starts shouting me questions. I now have two voices speaking at me and I can’t understand anything.

I start to panic. No water and it’s stuffy already in here. I take my jacket off.

The mantra I often chant to myself, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you choose to deal with it” calms my nerves.

I press all buttons, they no longer glow a ring of red – I wonder if  there’s  a power short.

I press the ‘emergency’ phone symbolled button

“Hi, it’s Annie. How are you today?” She asks chirpily.

Then before I can answer, she says, “Do you mind holding?” and again before I can respond there is ‘call-waiting’ music. Yep in a lift! When you’ve pressed an emergency button. Then she doesn’t come back. I press the button and get the same speil from a lady named Linda.

“What lift are you in dear?” She asks

“Melbourne Airport, Jetstar Terminal” I bend down low and speak loud and slow in the demeaning way many strangers speak to me.

“ so Melbourne University, what’s your lift Number? She asks. I can hear here typing

“No Melbourne airport” I repeat even slower and louder, “and how do I know what Number it is?”

“On the top of the wall” instructed Linda.

I scan the entire lift and then after not seeing any lift numbers, only my reflection, force myself to look up. It’s in the upper left corner up high where I’d never look. It’s in small print, engraved in the wall. I squint and read it slowly. Looking up makes me dizzy. The lady suddenly vanishes. Silence.

“Is anyone there?” I shout, but I can’t project and no one answers.

“Choose your spot Em” I chant to myself.

I decide to call my mum. However as soon as I hear her voice, I begin to blubber.

“Hey Mem, How’s things?” She asks

“Not good Ma, I’m stuck in the lift” I say

She pauses, “Stuck in a lift?” She queries

“Yep and I can’t get out!” I blubber, realising how stupid that sounds.

“Do they know that you’re in there Em?” Mum asks concerned

“Yep but I don’t know what’s going on. They’re all talking over each other and I can’t understand them”. I say

“Hang in there Em, you’ll be out in no time” she reassures me.

I needed that assurance. I breathe

Suddenly the metal doors at either end of the lift part.

“Are the doors opening?” A Man above echoes

They are but just like in the movies all I see is a wall of concrete and some cables and danger signs.

“They open but there’s a wall” I shout back.

“Are you ok?” another lady asks from the speaker. I once again am not sure whose asking what My hearings been affected since my stroke and I don’t know which direction these questions are coming from.

“Are you still in the lift?” A man shouts. I’m confused, does he think I escape!

“Yes!” I say probably too forcedly.

I realise mum’s on the phone still, “Sorry ma, the doors are opening to a wall and…

Mum cuts me off saying, “ You talk to them Em and call me back”

She goes. Once again silence. I hear a knocking sound and then nothing… Then a few male voices..

Twenty five minutes later, the doors are forced open. I look up –   the doors are not aligned properly so all I see is three mens’ legs and work boots in the small opening. The men duck down and seemed surprised to see my walking frame and me.

“Can you climb up?” One guy asks

I just gaze down to my walking frame and another guy says, “I’ll come down and help you

The three guys lever me up and they drag me onto the shiny white surface.

Space. Air. Noise. Freedom

“Thank you” I sigh

With no other operating lift, I happily let them assist me down the stairs. My flight’s boarding. Before I board, I phone Mum

She answers immediately, obviously waiting to hear from me

Hey Ma, I’m out!” I say relieved.

Anything can happen but it is clearly how we handle that situation that makes the difference. Often we need another person to guide us or talk us through it. This event also made me realise that the people around me were all aiming to get me out. However, they were all oblivious to the fact that each of their reassuring words, actions or instructions were only received by me as a big unclear loud baffle. They were all speaking over the top of each other and my replies were often not heard because the other person was speaking. Their morphed words just caused me more distress, made me feel more misunderstood.

How can you communicate better to ensure that you all achieve the best outcome?