It was about this time last year when I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. The store was filled with holiday cheer – festive music, poinsettas and apple cidar welcomed me as I walked through the doorway. Even though the parking lot was insanely packed, people were generally happy and cordial. And I was thinking about my newborn. Funny how those babies come into your life and instantly, you can’t remember what life was like before their arrival. I missed her already. I had to hurry in order to be back in time to nurse her again before heading over to a friends’ house for dinner.
I was en route to the aisle with confectioner’s sugar when I heard an awful sound. The sound was a deafening moan, intermixed with yelling and a chanting of sorts. If I had been outside I would have thought it was an animal that had just been shot with a bullet, a deer or a bear groaning the last bit of life out of itself.
When I turned the corner, to the aisle with all the noise, I found a middle-aged woman crying and moaning and a stranger by her side, consoling the woman. About 10 feet behind the women, I saw a middle-aged man on the floor, convulsing. He was foaming at the mouth as his body shook. Several people had kneeled down, helpless, but waiting to see how they could help. I immediately ran. I ran as fast as I could down the aisle, yelling, HELP! HELP! I saw a store employee, and yelled for him to call 911 immediately that someone was having convulsions and needed an ambulance right away. Then, I headed back to the woman. She was chanting over and over, “this is it, God is going to take him from me, I just know it..this is it, God is going to take him from me, I just know it.”
She looked at me and asked “Oh God, is he dead?” Her knees were starting to give out and I had to use all my strength to keep her standing up.
I told her that I could see him and I could hear him breathing, but when I looked back again, I saw that a stranger had started CPR. I told the woman that I would be back and that her husband needed my help.
I told the lady performing CPR that my certification had expired years ago, but that I could still do compressions. What did she need? ”Gloves, they have them at the bakery!”
I don’t think I’ve ever run faster. For those of you who have ever shopped in a Wegman’s, you know that it is often described as “Disney land, but for adults.” It’s huge and the bakery is about as far away from the confectioner’s sugar as possible. As I bolted past strangers, I felt a surge of adrenaline take over and I yelled, over and over, “PLEASE MOVE!” When I got to the bakery, the first person I asked threw the entire box of gloves at me. And back I sprinted.
By the time I got back to the aisle, the man was breathing. He was dazed and confused, and having a really hard time figuring out where he was and why he was on the floor. He tried getting up, but what was now a gathering of 4-5 strangers and a few store employees told him to stay where he was – the ambulance was on the way. The floor was slippery wet and I had to catch myself a couple of times from falling. The man’s bowels had released during cardiac arrest.
I waited with the wife, consoling her as much as possible. She gave me her family’s phone numbers and I began dialing her best friend. He was going to have to stay with her teenage daughters at home while she went to the emergency room with her husband.
About 25 minutes after the beginning of the man’s seizure, the ambulance finally arrived. I asked the wife if she’d like for me to ride to the hospital with her and hold her hand. No, she said she’d be alright.
I called her friend the rest of the day until he finally called me back. He was already on his way to take care of the couple’s daughters.
The next day, I got in touch with the woman at the hospital. They were running some tests, but weren’t sure what had happened to her husband. She thanked me for my help.
A week later I went to her house with a lasagna dinner and 5 bags full of groceries. Although the Wegman’s manager told me that they would be providing the family’s groceries free of charge, I had a feeling that the family could use a little help. I had decided to give the family the $50 gift certificate that Wegman’s had given to me for helping during the crisis. I didn’t feel like I deserved a $50 gift certificate. Afterall, I didn’t perform CPR on the man and I did what most people would have done.
Turns out their front door had a lockbox. The husband had been out of work for months. And, one of their daughters was in college.
One of the daughters was there to receive the food. She kept thanking us and telling my mom and me (my mom had bought some of the groceries) that they were going to “do something big” as a thank you.
I told her to tell her mom that after things settled down and her dad was back in the swing of things, to pay it forward. The best way she could repay me was to do something nice for someone else.
A few weeks later, I received an envelope in the mail. I didn’t recognize the return address and was surprised to find a beautiful handwritten thank you note inside, with a handmade magnet, from the family, that read:
“In as much as you have done it unto me, one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” -Matthew 25:40
I still have that magnet on my refrigerator today. It reminds me that life can change forever in just an instant – so embrace and be thankful for the many blessings that life has to offer.
Many wonderful blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving!
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