Monday, July 10, 2006

My Husband is My Hero

Even though we are more than 1000 miles apart, my husband and I talk on the phone every day. With Verizon's America's Choice program, we talk cell-to-cell for free and do so frequently.

Sometimes we only talk once a day, but often - depending on what's going on in our lives - we talk several times a day. We're one of those couples who can stand to be around each other a lot, and if we can't be together in person then the phone is the next best thing. For the past four years, our summers have been spent apart as I work seasonally in Maine while he works in Michigan.

A couple of evenings ago, we were talking as he was getting back into his van at a local shopping center. It was just casual conversation between us, typical gabbing, when quite suddenly he said in an urgent voice, "Gotta go - I'll call you back," and the phone went dead.

We've been married more than 18 years, and we know each other well. His tone of voice told me something serious had just happened, and I knew he was taking action. It's Tom's nature. I just didn't know what was going on, and would have to wait until he called me back - it was definitely "test of patience" time.

About 30 minutes later, my cell rang. He told me the scene which had unfolded before him, and it was pretty spell-binding. By God's grace, Tom just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

While he had been talking with me earlier, he noticed an elderly woman pulling her car into the parking space across from his van. Two young women in their late teens were walking between parked cars, and as the woman was pulling into the empty space, they somehow startled her.

Instead of hitting the brake, the elderly woman accidently hit the gas pedal. Her car lurched forward, and smashed into one of the young women as they crossed in front of her. The teenager was pinned against a parked car.

That's when Tom said to me "Gotta go", and went to help. He had immediately recognized the emergency, and took his cell phone with him. (Okay, now that was a silly statement - anyone who knows my husband knows that he doesn't go anywhere without his cell phone - he's a well-known cell-aholic.)

The injured young woman suffered a compound fracture of the upper thigh. She was bleeding profusely, and Tom realized that the main leg artery had been compromised. She was literally bleeding out, right there in the parking lot.

In only a few seconds, she had gone from a simple evening of shopping to very suddenly becoming a victim of a life-threatening injury.

Tom quickly applied pressure to stop the arterial bleeding, but it wouldn't quit. Simultaneously, he handed his cell to the second young woman, and as he had his hands full at that moment, he instructed her to dial 911. Since he uses and was wearing his Bluetooth headset for his cell (yes, he's a gadget-kind-of-guy), he told the 911 dispatcher what was happening. He asked her to send both an ambulance and a patrol car, and was able to give his specific location in this huge shopping center parking lot.

The bleeding still wouldn't stop, and the situation in only those few moments had become critical. He turned to the second young woman and asked her if she had anything string-like. Wouldn't you know it - while shopping, these two young women had just picked up SHOELACES. Quickly, with the pen in his pocket, Tom fashioned a make-shift tourniquet with a new shoelace, allowing him to get good tight pressure on the bleeding. It slowed dramatically.

More good fortune - both an ambulance and a patrol car happened to be only a very few blocks away, and arrived within a few short minutes. By then Tom had found a second pen and had written the tourniquet start time on the injured young woman's forehead so the hospital would know the length of time it had been applied. Seeing the ink on her friend's forehead, the second young woman said, "She's not going to like that." Tom just smiled, knowing he had done the appropriate procedure.

Of course, no one there watching this scene would have guessed his background - corrections officer, patrol officer, nursing school, volunteer ambulance service - and that his training from all these careers had kicked in automatically, At least, not until he updated the ambulance EMT, who immediately knew that all Tom's actions were not only appropriate, but absolutely necessary (including the forehead notes) and had probably saved a life.

The young woman was transported to the hospital, where she most likely had surgery to repair the compound fracture and the artery injury. She probably won't feel so great for a while, but it sure beats the alternative.

The elderly lady driving the car was very shaken and upset, but uninjured.

Tom gave his statement and information to the police officer, and left. He had a pile of firewood to stack.

To him, this was nothing particularly unusual. It's not the first time he's witnessed and assisted at an accident. He was quite matter-of-fact about it when he called me to say he was okay and tell me what had so suddenly interrupted our phone call. That's just his nature - he's solid as a rock in emergencies, handles it all carefully, thoughtfully and calmly, and then goes on with his day as if nothing special had happened.

But it WAS special. Very, very special.

If he hadn't responded quickly, what would have happened to that injured young woman?

Would someone else have had the presence of mind to immediately call 911? Minutes were crucial.

Would someone have been able to exactly describe the specific location of this accident? It was a huge parking lot, with hundreds and hundreds of cars.

Would anyone have known how to apply arterial pressure to slow the bleeding? If they did, would they actually get involved? Would they recognize the immediate need for and how to apply a tourniquet with make-shift materials? It doesn't take very long to die from an arterial bleed.

If Tom hadn't been there, or hadn't responded so quickly, what would have happened to that young woman?

My husband's always been special to me. He's absolutely the best husband I could ever wish for. But last Saturday evening in Kalamazoo, Michigan - even though she probably doesn't know it - he was VERY SPECIAL to a young woman in an asphalt parking lot who now is still on this earth because Tom cared.

My husband is my hero.

1 comment:

Dena said...

Wow Beth!!! I don't watch the news much but I bet this was on the news. That is something else. You know you should become a writer! I was reading through some of your "articles" and you are very well ritiqulated (sp).

Your hubby sounds fantastic GF. What a great guy.

Dena :-)

PS- I bought a few things from The Ole Grey Mare before~isn't she as nice as can be? :-)