Today started out like any other day, really. I was running late, rushing through my makeup and already in the car on my way to start my day before I realized my cell was sitting on my kitchen counter. I debated going back, but the clock taunted my thoughts and I drove on. Turning the corner to just miss a horrific accident where a teenage girl had pinned a tow truck driver between her jeep and his tow lift. I slowed my car, threw it into park, punched in my flashers and ran into the street to assist. I don’t know what I thought I could do, I’d trained a little, but mostly basic CPR and what action to take when an infant was chocking. Still, it was as if I was no longer in control of my body and my mind. Something drove me out of my car and onto the horrific scene as if summoned. By the time I got across the street there were dozens of on lookers with gaping mouths and a stream of repeated “oh my god” that ran down the street like a word river.
I was without my cell phone and without thinking I sprang into action barking orders at anyone around. A garbage truck driver had his phone to his ear and seemed to be looking around at a loss. I stepped into his dazed view “Is that 911?” he brought his focus to my eyes “yes, I don’t know where we are” he managed back in a panic “Ok, we are on the corner of Hemlock and Patterson about a block behind the 7/11”. I noticed another onlooker clenching her pink cell phone completely stunned. “Hi, there” I said probably too close to her face, but attempting to focus her attention. “Can you please call his company, we need to get someone out here that knows how to operate this lift” she blinked a few times “I don’t know the number” she replied. “Ok, go around the truck, it should be written on the side, call and give them our location, tell them to send another driver ASAP.” She ran to the side of the truck and began dialing. Another man called out to me “Hey! I know CPR” he said raising his hand in the air. I ran to where the man lay half on the ground and half between the cars. “No, he’s breathing, don’t touch him, we don’t know what further damage we might do.”.
I actually had no idea what I was talking about and I was slightly worried I was giving false information. One thing I knew for sure was that clearly if someone is breathing you don’t need to attempt CPR, the thought to not move someone honestly was probably just something I saw on some late night medical show, but it seemed reasonable to me. I told the man to hold his hand and talk to him, I said “don’t try to get him to reply, his arm is pinned against his mouth and he may do some damage by trying to move it himself, he’s breathing OK like that for now”. Again, no idea here, but no one else was doing anything. Just then I heard a young woman’s scream and a soft thud, the teenage driver had fainted. I pointed to a woman in her pajama’s, “do you live here?” I demanded at the residence nearest to the street. She nodded maintaining her deer in headlights gaze. “Ok, go grab her a blanket”. She ran towards the door and returned with blanket just as quickly. The teenage girl began to shake and shout “I can’t feel my arms and legs, I can’t feel them!” I kneeled beside her tucking the blanket it tighter “You’re going into shock” I explained “are you in pain?”. She nodded her head slowly from side to side indicating that she was not. I looked up at the garbage truck driver “wave those cars around, we don’t need them hocking their horns, just wave them around”. He jogged over to do as instructed. I quickly ran to the driver’s side of each car in the midst of giving them direction “Are you a doctor? Are you a nurse? I asked each passerby. Finally, one young woman in scrubs replied with a meek “yes” I went to open her door and said “great, we need you over here until the ambulance comes”. She looked at me horrified “No, I’ve just graduated, I don’t know what to do”. I sent her on her way.
Finally, the cops arrived at the scene, I described for them briefly the steps we’d taken and then I went on my way. I drove to work in a total daze at a slightly slower speed than normal. Suddenly, it didn’t matter much to me how late I was that day or what meetings might be starting without me. I thought about the tow truck drivers slow rattled breathing, I wondered if he was a dad. I thought about the teenage driver and what might have distracted her. I thought about how they would both be affected for the rest of their lives, and I think, so will I. I replayed my directions and my actions, I worried I’d done something wrong that could have cost time or damage. Mostly, I thought about how lucky I was to have this day. To have this present moment and this chance to reevaluate and remember what it’s all about. Each day is a gift and we need to remember the same rules our parents taught us about receiving gifts. We need to be thankful, respectful and grateful for our gifts. So, when you unwrap yourself out of bed each morning, remember that you are a gift and your presence is a gift, treat them with the same appreciation and giddy excitement your mother had the day you began your gift and that you would each birthday and use it to remind yourself that life is your best present. Because we just never know when we may be receiving our last.