Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 7 seconds
As a caregiver, I was quick to show that I cared by giving a ridiculous amount of myself to those in need. It became theatrical; when I was in uniform, I was the caped crusader. I had a set of standing orders, powerful medications, lots of high-tech miniaturized tools, and a vehicle to get to people in need and bring them back to the hospital safely, be it an ambulance, helicopter, or airplane. I developed and used those superpowers for over three decades. I was a good deed doer, to the 10th magnitude, and I reveled in my role.
One-upping myself was the game I played, and it was rare that I could be beaten. I was a man with a mission waiting for the pager to go off, 24-7, at a moment’s notice. Meeting me was going to be the best part of someone’s worst day ever. In addition to providing excellent medical care, I was always on the lookout for how I could help make the human condition better. Some of my best calls had nothing to do with medical emergencies.
I retired from EMS several years ago and seem to rarely have the opportunity to do my favorite thing anymore. Perhaps that is what I miss most about EMS. My legacy is set in stone by others who learned some of my moves and share their examples of pulling a Levitch with me.
Then the Tides Got Turned
As a caregiver, I was gracious and deflected praise, and shielded myself from the limelight when I did my thing. A hug or a thank you was all that was needed to make my day. Then the strangest thing happened. I was the one in need.
Rushing to the airport to catch my flight home I was caught off guard, vulnerable, confused, weak, and disoriented, I had mis-booked my flight a month earlier. I was a day off. I was fragile and out of options and time to catch the last flight home from Atlanta. I was exhausted physically and emotionally. I was alone and out of tools in my toolbox to fix my situation in time. I thought for a moment, what if I failed, what if I just let it happen, what would it be like if I just gave up and accepted my fate? At that moment I was going to throw in the towel. I honestly didn’t care if it worked out. I supposed I would just curl up and succumb to my situation. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I only wanted to be safe at home, not stuck in the airport beaten by my own mistake.
The airlines were just following protocol and had no empathy or compassion for my situation. The only way to get home was to pay dearly to have my ticket altered and reissued or be stranded until I came up with the cash that I didn’t have on me. Then it happened.
Someone Rescued the Rescuer
Someone overheard what was going on and sensed my angst and decided to come to my rescue. She stepped out of line, slid up behind me, and performed a rescue. She was an angel; she was beautiful, tall, gentle, and confident as she swiftly solved my problem by opening her wallet and throwing down the missing cash. “Baby, you need this more than I do right now.” I was so stunned and down to the last second to catch my flight, that I did not realize that she had disappeared from sight before I could thank and hug her.
What she did was irrelevant, but that she did it was humbling and amazing. How she did it was with grace, elegance, and compassion; she shielded me from embarrassment and renewed my dignity in my darkest moment. I surveyed the crowd longingly. I hoped to find her to express my heartfelt thank you, and I figured she would be easy to find, as she stood a head above the rest of the crowd. As I was whisked to the front of the TSA line to catch my flight, I feared that I would never see her again.
Then I saw her headed in the opposing direction several escalators away. What is your name? I yelled, distracting her from her earpieces. “Maria,” she said in a soft sweet voice. “Thank you, Maria,” I hollered back and held my hands together in front of me as if praying and bowed as I made an indelible image of her in my mind. I internally promised to pay it forward as I quickly lost sight of her rushing to catch my flight.
A humbleness fills me as I write this; I rarely get to be a superhero anymore, but I do stop at crashes. I keep my eye out for opportunities, just the same. I realize that we all have the ability to be as vulnerable, insecure, and confused as my patients once were. I have been blessed to be on both sides of the fence now. I experienced what it is like to be the recipient of grace and empathy. If I were still a Paramedic, this experience would have made me a better practitioner. Cheers to you, my princess in shining armor. Maria, may you be blessed with such kindness when you reach your time of need.
Every religion has its prayer and some saints for safe travel. I believe my prayers were heard, and Maria was the messenger. Faith in humanity renewed, I plow forward with a new reality of good in the world. Ultimately I missed my flight but made it home calmly a day late after visiting a long-lost friend in Texas. I made an unforgettable human connection that day which was far more important than being in my bed that night. I believe these things happen for a reason. My stoic self took comfort in the many moments of being aware of my foibles and vulnerability yet able to marvel at the moment and be swept in directions I had no control over. My new challenge is based on looking for ways to one-up Maria.