Thursday, November 13, 2014

Remembering a face in the crowd

As I walked out of Golden Gate Park today I heard the sirens and saw two firetrucks pass by. I was concentrating on crossing the street and didn't notice which way they went. I was still a couple of blocks from home. Just because of the way the traffic lights worked, I walked north and then west, which is about 50 yards longer than walking west and then north. Close enough to be called a tie, really.

As I turned onto Cabrillo street I saw those fire engines and an ambulance in front of my neighbor's house. I don't know what happened, but the front door was opened and rescue workers were streaming in and out of the house. I kept going, not wanting to be a ghoul. The ambulance drove by my house as I put the garbage cans out, but the firetrucks stayed behind.

It's now an hour later, I can see one of the trucks  through the yards when I'm on the back deck. I am sitting in my dining room and I can hear the radio on the firetruck. If I decided to listen closely I would probably hear exactly what happened. Really, for all the talk, we have no privacy at all.

Seeing all that brought me back to Valentine's morning when we had the same three trucks and an ambulance in front of our house. Of course it was 3:30 am, so not too may people were walking by, but I'm sure they could all hear everything on the radio if they chose to. It doesn't matter, but it makes me wonder.

So many things stick out about that day. So many painful images. The obvious ones need not be discussed, but one less obvious one came right back to me as I saw the paramedics climb into that ambulance today. I remembered the paramedic's face. It was as clear as day.

Maggie had been "down" for a long time. Too long. They were about to give up when they finally got a pulse; but we knew the damage had been done. And the paramedics knew too. They transported Maggie to the hospital where the staff worked on her feverishly for 30 minutes or so in the ER and then immediately transferred Maggie upstairs to the Pediatric ICU. There were so many people in that ER room. Several doctors and nurses from the ER and from the PICU as well as the firemen and paramedics who were still doing paperwork.

As we walked behind Maggie and the  numerous caregivers surrounding her now moving gurney, I caught the eye of one of the paramedics. He was sitting in a little alcove finishing his paperwork. He was probably the same age as one of my sons. He looked so sad and so defeated. He looked at me and I quietly said "thank you for all your hard work" and he just put his lips together tightly and nodded. We both knew what was going to happen and we gave each other just an acknowledgement of respect.

I think of that guy often and find myself looking at paramedics closely to see if it's him. I did that today as this moment was replaying in my head. If I did see him, I would probably say nothing because it would be too weird, but I would want to tell him what a huge difference he made to us.

Without his efforts - and those of his fellow firefighters - we would have lost Maggie that morning. Instead, we got another 40 hours. They weren't easy hours, but they were important. We spent that time laughing and crying and preparing ourselves. Without that time, we wouldn't have been able to gather our family. Eddie never would have had time to get here from Orange County nor would Tim have been able to come from his house across the park.  We wouldn't have been able to share our memories. We wouldn't have been able to say goodbye.

It's no wonder I can still see his face so clearly. He was an important person in my life.

I hope all is well with my neighbors.


  1. Seek him out! I did after my dad passed. It was a fulfilling experience ��

  2. As a medic I know that, even long after a call, a simple card can mean the world to us. We usually know when a story will have a sad ending, but knowing that what we could do mattered to someone can take some of the sting from the memory. Some calls stay with us a long time, as they should, and a small piece of closure can mean a lot. Most EMS/Fire services will make sure the medics who were involved will see a card if it is dropped off to the station or thru EMS HQ.


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