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a love like that

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 10:59 AM | PAAW Administrator (Administrator)

We’re driving down the road and in the front of the truck, it’s just the two of us. There was some small talk but it’s fizzled out. It’s hard to compete with the siren anxiously wailing above our heads.

He’s maybe sixty, tops. Married for over thirty years, he told me that part.  I’m watching traffic because cars who notice a lot of flashing lights and noise behind them behave predictably – in their unpredictability.  So I’m swiveling eyeballs between mirrors and windshield and I’m plenty busy at it. He’s staring straight ahead doing a passable job of keeping it together, last I glimpsed.

She’s in back and she’s got company. Plenty of it, and that’s not good in our world. Generally one medic in back with you is sufficient but if the crew takes along a couple firemen, like now, well.  That’s another story.  And there are two back there with my partner. The patient is my companion’s missus, and their thirty-plus years spiraled downward about a half hour ago.

I got the tube on the first try and although I was satisfied at my first intubation in the field going so well, his silent presence brought it home to me that there was nothing to celebrate here. They’d just had lunch when things turned. She failed to answer his question in conversation and when he turned to see the reason for her silence, he saw her slumping over. Helping her to the floor, he called 911 and a few minutes later that kitchen was full of strangers bent over the body of the mother of his children. IV access, compressions, intubation, medication administration – the choreographed dance of resuscitation. I saw him in the corner looking like someone had just sucker punched him, right before I clicked the laryngoscope blade home and bent down to take a look. Made me blow out a pursed-lip breath and gather myself – no pressure.

When we left the driveway we had ROSC – return of spontaneous circulation. She was doing the important things on her own and we were breathing for her through a protected airway. Anti-dysrhythmia drugs dripping into her veins and fire fighters along just in case things worsened en route.

We just went by our main parking lot posting station when the muffled sounds and then the rhythmic squeaking behind me made my heart sink. Funny what you can hear over sirens, and I’m just wondering if he can hear it too when he asks, “what’s that sound? How’s she doing?” followed almost instantly by “is that CPR again?”

And because honesty is one of the four gifts I believe in most wholeheartedly in our profession, I answer truthfully that yes, it is. In a voice I can remember clearly as I type this, he says “oh, love….” And turns his head to the window.  The next four or five minutes will be with me as long as I live. For he began to talk to her.

He started off by telling her that he always thought he’d be holding her hand when she crossed from this life over to the other side. He told her how infinitely loved she had always been by him and he praised the way she raised their babies. He thanked her for the life they’d had, and for the joy she’d always been to him. He told her he was always surprised that a woman like her loved him so much and so well.

Then he began to pray. He asked if I would pray with him and I told him that I would in spirit but the cars and the traffic and the red lights needed my whole attention. He bowed his head in my periphery I could see him as he poured his heart out to his God. Telling him that this wasn’t how he thought it would be, how he always hoped he’d go before her, but thanking him for this gift of a wife he’d been given this long. He prayed for strength to tell the children, and asked for peace and comfort for the family.

I can’t tell you all of it beyond that, and I can’t explain how there, in the front cab of that ambulance I have spent countless hours in, how I felt like I was on sacred ground. I felt like an eavesdropper and I bit my lip pretty badly to distract myself from the tears building up in my throat. What a priceless treasure, to see even a little bit of a love like that!

He seemed to know that she was gone, he never questioned it and although efforts did not cease until sometime after we had left them both in the emergency room, he was right. She was gone.

The world may romanticize celebrity couples and novels can elaborate at length, but one of the greatest living examples of love I’ve ever seen entered my life on a sunny fall afternoon in a kitchen.  The woman I never had the privilege to speak with was loved with a depth Hollywood will never capture. What an honor, what an unspeakably breathtaking moment to witness.

I wonder if she heard?

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