She never missed her weekly hair appointment. So when the 82-year-old woman didn't show up at Boston Hair Salon in Marblehead, Mass., at the usual time - 3 p.m. on a recent Thursday - Lisa Buswell sensed something was wrong.
Buswell has seen the woman on the same day, at the same time, every week for the seven years. Her customer was typically on time and would tell Buswell when she would be out of town.
Buswell called the house - several times - and there was no answer. So, she called a former neighbor of the woman, Wilbur Bassett Jr., and asked if he could swing by and see if her car was in the driveway. It was.
"I said there was something terribly wrong," Buswell said. "You have to get in."
Bassett tried getting into the house from the garage but had no luck. He went to the back of the house and found the kitchen door unlocked.
"I walked into the house and yelled, and she yelled back," Bassett said. "She said, 'I'm at the bottom of the stairway.' I knew something was wrong."
The woman had fallen down the stairs the day before, Buswell said, and had lain there for 29 hours with a fractured leg and hip and broken ribs. Bassett called 911.
Paramedics took her to Salem Hospital, where she is recovering from surgery. She did not want to comment.
"She was in pretty bad shape," said Buswell, 42, who has been a hairstylist for 26 years.
Marblehead Police Chief Robert Picariello said many seniors have routines, as this woman did, and it's worth checking in if they don't show up for something. He recommended calling police if anything seems wrong.
Buswell said the experience was a lesson in how important it is to watch out for older neighbors, friends and family.
"I knew she didn't have any kids to check up on her, and she is alone," Buswell said. "She is 82 years old; anything can happen."
Jonathan Phelps writes for The Salem (Mass.) News.