Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Visitor

At work yesterday, I was greeted by a visitor, gift basket in hand. He looked vaguely familiar; I had seen him once before, but didn't fully recognize him until he told me his name. Then, the events of our first meeting two months ago came rushing back in an instant.

Medical emergency. Building 12. I raced off with my large kit bag and Emergency Response Team orange vest to the location of the call.

One look and I could tell it wasn't good. The patient's face was this horrendous yellow-grey color, unnatural, it seemed, for any human being. His eyes were drooping as he drifted in and out of consciousness, sitting propped up against the restroom wall.

As I was trained to do, I gave him oxygen with a mask from my portable tank, and another volunteer and I kept him talking while the Fire Department and ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital.

Three hours later, he was in surgery for a 100% blockage in a coronary artery. He'd had a massive heart attack while sitting at his desk at work. As is procedure, us volunteer ERT members had converged on his location to care for him until the professional medical teams arrived.

And now, 2 months later, he was standing at my desk, smiling from ear-to-ear. He was back at work, having recovered almost completely from this harrowing ordeal. His eyes were bright, and his face was radiant, almost unrecognizable from the degenerating state I'd seen him in previously.

As he handed me the beautiful gift basket, he said, "Thank you for saving my life."

This is what makes it all worthwhile.

All the training, all the drills, the big heavy bag, the stooping over smashed-up cars in the pouring rain - all of this is done for a reason. Sometimes we treat injuries, sometimes we simply calm and comfort. It is not for the praise or the ego; it is solely for the knowledge that we did something, however small, to help a fellow human being in need.

I didn't really save this man's life. I wasn't the one holding the instrument that unblocked his artery and allowed the blood to flow back to his heart. All I did was help get him to where he needed to be. But every single one of us volunteers who responded to the alarm on the radio that day made a difference in his life.

He's doing much better now. He has quit his 35-year smoking habit. He is exercising every day with his wife. He has cut back on the brutal, uncompromising work schedule, and is now taking time for himself and his family. The brightness in his eyes is testament to the brightness of his future, in this new and revitalized life. Although spurred by a frightening event like this, he is ready, now, to make that happen.

There is no greater reward than that.

Yes, I will share the gift basket Bailey's with my friends. But most fulfilling of all is the knowledge that one man's life was touched by our work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story, Andrea - it brought tears to my eyes.

And what a wonderful time of year to receive such a blessing!

- Jennifer

December 21, 2005 at 3:33:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fucking awesome :)

January 20, 2006 at 4:47:00 PM PST  

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