February 4, 2008

Wife, Mother, and Angel: Part II

My fear, after learning that my wife saved a little boy from choking to death, was that if circumstances were different and the boy died, we could have been sued. Also, my experiences as a police officer were often that things weren’t always as they seemed. She could have rolled onto the scene of a homicide attempt and been a victim herself. Granted, I usually assume the worst; but in this case, I was glad she stopped for that poor family and applied her skills. There’s a happy eleven your old kid running around today who may or may not be aware of my wife's extraordinary efforts to save his life.

That one event would have been enough for anyone. Simply save one person from death and you’re a hero. But, my wife recently found herself in another situation where she felt compelled to act. This past summer, in September, she was coming home from work along her usual route where the Northern State Parkway ends and merges with Route 347. This is a very dangerous and busy junction at any time of the day; but, at around 5:00pm, traffic is treacherous. Two main highways merge into one and accidents are abundant on these roads. As she drove along in the left lane which would take her out onto the center of route 347, she noticed a van parked precariously on the shoulder of the bypass. A woman was slouched against the driver’s door of the van. Once again, my wife was the only person out of hundreds who were passing by who noticed someone in distress. Stopping is not easy in that area, yet she kept a careful eye on the woman as she loomed in the rear view mirror. She made it into the right lane using her turning signal and the might and size of our large, Earth unfriendly, extended, Chevy Trailblazer (more on that vehicle in another post). She finally glided to a halt on the shoulder of the road about a hundred yards away from the imperiled woman and had to back up, rather dangerously to get to her.

By then, the woman had collapsed and was on all fours with her head exposed to speeding cars. My wife jumped from her vehicle and ran to her, calling out “Watch it, get out of the road!” as she sprinted over. There was a constant hum and whooshing of automobiles darting by and the woman was oblivious to the drama she faced. This stranger, apparently disorientated, was crawling into the middle of a busy highway. My wife reached her, and by some miracle she was able to guide her to the front of the woman's van for safety. The woman held her stomach and complained of intense pain. It is interesting to note that no other motorist found it necessary to stop or even call for help. My wife’s call to 911 on her cell phone was the only report of this lady needing an ambulance. After asking what was going on, the woman told her that she was in agony, and that she was trying to get home in time to get her young son off the school bus as no one was available to get him for her. Then, the she passed out, unconscious and unresponsive. My wife placed a second call into 911 to alert them of her worsening condition. Shortly thereafter, she heard sirens.

The woman awoke to tell her that her cell phone was on the dashboard of the van and she needed to call a neighbor to get her son off the school bus. She was frantic, yelping in pain, attempting to stand, and my wife had to calm her down. She entered this stranger’s van, retrieved the cell phone, and handed it to the woman who was again unconscious. The police arrived first. All Suffolk County police officers are trained emergency medical technicians and they showed up with medical gear. The police interviewed my wife who gave them a full description of what happened. They were able to talk to the woman who became conscious once again. An officer called a neighbor who agreed to get the child off the bus and a police sector car was dispatched to the bus stop to make sure the child was secure.

An ambulance arrived with urgency, just in time because the woman lapsed again into unconsciousness. She was taken to the nearest hospital, but unlike her involvement in the past incident with the baby choking on food a decade earlier, my wife went straight home. I heard her tale, hugged her, kissed her, and told her how special she was. My concern for her safety was overshadowed by her bravery. Heroism does not come without risk, and I wish she didn’t have to risk anything. Like my wife, I was frustrated that no one else stepped up to the plate and did so much as place a phone call to aid a stranger in public who was clearly in need of emergency assistance. This woman found help, and at the right time. Maybe one day they’ll meet again under better circumstances. But really, how many times in your life do you see an angel?

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