Tag Archives: bus driver hero

Omnitrans bus driver brings calm to chaos

Omnitrans coach operatorCoach Operator Jeremy Aragon was headed downtown on Route 14. When he brought the bus to a stop, he noticed a woman preparing to disembark. Without warning, she appeared to go into a seizure, falling and hitting her head on the rear step.

Passengers rushed forward to try to move her, but Jeremy intervened, warning them that they could potentially injure her. After checking to make sure she was still breathing, he contacted dispatch and requested immediate medical assistance. Jeremy stayed with the woman, telling her that she appeared to have had a seizure and that help was on the way.

“I knew the most important thing I could do at that moment was to monitor her condition so that I could keep the emergency medics updated,” Jeremy said. “I had trained as an EMT so I knew what information they needed. I also cleared the other passengers from the coach so they would have room to do their work without interference.”

The woman seized twice more before the emergency crew arrived, just minutes later. Thanks to Jeremy’s quick action and ongoing updates, the EMTs were well prepared for the situation. The woman explained that she was epileptic and had not taken her medicine for three weeks because she was waiting for a doctor’s prescription. Hooking her up to an IV, the team was able to stabilize her and safely move her from the coach to the ambulance.

Later Jeremy received recognition from Omnitrans for his calm handling of the crisis. But what no one realized was how close to home the situation had been for the young driver.

Omnitrans bus driver

“I kind of knew what to expect,” he admitted. “My mom was epileptic also. It was actually the weirdest thing. As a child, she was hit in the head with an anchor that was hoisted up by a cherry pick. And it caused her to have horrible, full blown grand mal seizures all her life. I’ve been taking care of her since I was three years old. So I’m a bit used to seizures and how to calm them.

“The best thing that you can do is turn them on their side and just rub them. Sometimes they can be disoriented, or even a little bit violent, coming out of it without realizing it. They’ve lost consciousness and don’t remember exactly what happened. Sometimes they have indications, like they’ll start getting hot flashes.

“My mom would stand up, because she could feel them coming on, which is the worst thing you can do. But that was just my mama. She’d say she was hot, and you could see it in her eyes. I’d go, ‘Mom, sit’ –but then she would just go into it. I would try to guide her, even at 3 or 4 years old, putting my arms up to break her fall. There were times when nobody was around, and she would go into a seizure. I would go downstairs to call the paramedics, and they would come out. Then I would do all the wrong things, like answer questions for my mama because I was protecting her.

Jeremy shrugs and smiles. “But you know, it raised me into a responsible young man. I wouldn’t change a thing. My mom is very special to me, and I would do it all over again for her. She tries to do so much for me, even now. When we go over to visit her on Sunday, she’ll have cooked like a 12 course dinner for us. My wife loves her too and goes over to help her out. My mom hasn’t had a seizure now in almost five years, and she’s been totally off the medication for three. The doctors say that she’s basically cured. It’s pretty amazing. God works miracles, I guess.”

Coach operator brings calm to chaos

Jeremy came to Omnitrans two years ago, on the recommendation of a friend at Riverside Transit Authority.

“I’m blessed in a lot of ways. Omnitrans has been everything I hoped for and then some. And my background has actually helped me quite a bit with my customer service and leadership skills. As an EMT, you learn how to bring order to chaos. Before, I had been doing caregiving for elderly patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Going from that to someone who knows what they’re saying and doing gives you a very different perspective on life and people–how we all connect with and treat each other. You learn how to go into any situation and bring calmness to it as soon as possible. The more calm the situation, the better the outcome for the person you’re dealing with, as well as everyone else. Sometimes it just takes gentle talk.”

Jeremy aspires to become an Omnitrans field supervisor, and feels that his ability to assess and diffuse a situation will be an asset. Although he is confident in his ability to handle a crisis, he admits there is one situation he hopes never to have to handle.

“My biggest fear is a baby,” he laughs. “I don’t ever want to have to deliver a baby on a bus. Even just thinking about the equipment I’d need makes me nervous. And there’s no stopping it. I’d almost have to take action. I had one passenger come up to me and say, ‘Hey I’m pregnant and on the way to the hospital.’ I told her, ‘Ma’am, please hold off on the contractions until we get to your destination.’”

Jeremy grins. “She had a pretty good laugh at that, but I was still relieved when she got to the hospital.”

 – Juno Kughler Carlson

Passenger recovers laptop thanks to bus driver

Passenger enjoys Omnitrans friendly bus service and convenient schedule - photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Passenger Yasuko Fujisawa with her recovered laptop on board the Omnitrans Route 65

When Yasuko Fujisawa boarded the Route 65 the night before Thanksgiving, she was so exhausted that even her bus driver, Roderick Morton,  commented to her that she looked tired that day. She smiled and explained that there was a lot going on with work and the holiday. When she finally disembarked, she accidently left her computer bag aboard the bus. It wasn’t until the next day that she realized her mistake, and by then she was sure it was too late.

“In Japan, if you lose a wallet, you will get it back because someone will turn it into the police,” explained Yasuko. “In the U.S. it is different. People say this doesn’t happen. When I told my friends and family, they just shook their heads and told me good luck.”

Montclair bus station  - photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Passenger Yasuko Fujisawa waits for the evening bus at Montclair transit center

It was a monumental loss for Yasuko. She and her husband are living with his parents, trying to save up money for a place of their own. Finding a job had been difficult for her, partly because of the language barrier. Although she came here from Japan as a student 5 years ago, she was still more comfortable expressing herself in English on the computer rather than in person.

She decided to put her portfolio online and offer her services as a graphics designer. Yasuko enjoyed helping small businesses grow by helping them to develop logos and business cards that helped them develop a unique identity. She was finally able to get work 2 days a week managing an Etsy site for a company called multeecustoms. To improve her writing skills, she was also taking a free English as a second language class at Mt. Sac. Her entire livelihood was tied to her computer, and now it was gone.

Thanksgiving day, her husband sent out an S.O.S. on Twitter, and Yasuko posted a private message to the Omnitrans Facebook page, explaining the situation and asking for help. They knew the offices were closed, and were surprised when they received a response from the social media manager. She told Yasuko how sorry she was that had happened and assured her they would do what they could to help. She gave her the phone number of the lost and found department and explained that it would reopen at 8:00 on Monday.

“It was so mentally helpful just to be able to talk to someone,” said Yasuko. “We like that there are so many ways—like Twitter and Facebook—that you can use to reach Omnitrans. It felt more reliable than just leaving a phone message. I was able to get a personal response and even find out what time the office opened so I could be there first thing.”

When she arrived at the Omnitrans offices Monday morning, she learned that the bus driver had found her computer and had turned it in for her. Her relief was immense.

We caught up with Yasuko and Roderick last night on Route 65 to find out more about what happened.

Bus Driver Roderick Morton and passenger Yasuko Fujisawa share a laugh outside the Route 65 Omnitrans bus.

“I found her computer bag not long after she got off the bus,” Roderick said. “I was hoping she would realize she left it and loop back around for it. She’s one of my regulars, and I knew it was important to her.”

“If I had known your exact street I would have driven up and down honking my horn to get your attention,” he teased Yasuko. She laughed.

Roderick is well liked by his passengers for his sense of humor and customer service. “I’m known as the singing bus driver around here,” he said with a grin. “I do a little rock, a little Motown, once in a while to pass the time and make the passengers smile. For some coach operators, this job is all about driving the vehicle. For me, it’s about the customer. I want them to have a good experience when they get on my bus, and I do what I can to make that happen. If I see someone running to catch the bus, I wait for them. When they board I smile and say hello. I want my passengers to feel like someone really cares about them.”

Friendly Omnitrans bus driver helps a passenger find schedule information

Omnitran bus driver Roderick Morton is known for his sense of humor and for always going the extra mile for his passengers

“I was nervous when I began riding the bus two months ago,” Yasuko admitted. “Especially in the evening on my way home.  But Roderick was always so friendly and made me feel so safe that I grew more comfortable. And each night it was the same regular five or six riders that climbed aboard at the transit center. We look out for each other like a little family.”

Yasuko searched for the right words to explain her thoughts. “Back in Japan, there was a little neighborhood that was plagued by crime. The people who lived there wanted desperately to find some way to stop what was happening.  They banded together, but weren’t sure what to do, what action they could take to protect themselves from these outsiders. They decided to grow flowers and trees and bushes—many, many of them. Every home, every business was surrounded by these beautiful and fragrant plants. And the crime rate dropped. Outsiders could see that these were people who cared deeply about their community, and they left them alone. “

“Omnitrans gives me that same feeling. Roderick is always so kind to his passengers and cares about what’s going on with us. He has created a little community. I feel very comfortable having my friends or family ride his bus because I know they will be safe and cared for.”

Nice bus driver laughing with favorite passengers on route 65  - photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Omnitrans bus driver Roderick Morton with passengers Yasuko and Paula aboard the Route 65.

As we talked, Paula, a passenger in a wheelchair at the front of the bus, overheard the story and asked to have her photo taken with the pair. She quickly put on her lipstick and handed me her cell phone. The three posed with big smiles. Watching them together, it was easy to see there was something special here. “This world needs a lot of love,” said Roderick. “I like being able to make a difference.”

–Juno Kughler Carlson

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Thank you tweet from Yasuko’s husband


Route 65 omnitrans bus leaves the montclair transit center on schedule

The last Omnitrans bus pulls out of the Montclair station on schedule