On this National Firefighters Day, I want to give a big thank you to our firefighters, paramedics, and ambulance drivers. For all the times they appear when we least expect it and yet need them most.
When my girls were about six and eight, they came to my rescue.
It was the week before Halloween and we had just left the barn behind my dad’s animal hospital where the girls spent the sunny morning horseback riding. The day was warm and breezy, and the girls fidgeted in anticipation of the special stop we were about to make on the way home—to their favorite pumpkin patch for our yearly pumpkins that would end up carved for Halloween night.
To save time, I drove us through the closest fast food restaurant so we could eat lunch in the car on the way. Little did I know how that decision would change the course of the whole day.
The girls were in the back seats, with their seat belts on, enjoying their carefully chosen hamburgers. I juggled a rice bowl in my lap, taking bites at each stop light.
Suddenly I noticed I was having difficultly swallowing. I drank some water and thought nothing of it. The light turned green and slowly I inched my way up the slight hill.
The next thing I knew, I heard screaming.
I thought the girls were arguing, until I looked up to find a tree branch pierced through the windshield, just a couple inches from my face. I turned around to see the girls were crying, their hamburgers overturned on the floor below them.
What I found out later from the woman in the car behind me me was that my car veered across the center lane divider, nearly hitting an oncoming car head on before rolling down a hill and hitting a tree.
I couldn’t believe it: I had passed out at the wheel.
Neighbors in the area and passengers of the cars who had been around us came to help. They called 911 and this is when I met our first responders. They arrived and assessed me and my girls. Since they were wearing their seat belts, the girls were okay.
My parents arrived and I was taken to a local hospital where they determined I had an allergic reaction to my meal. Swallowing the rice had stimulated my vagus nerve, causing me to black out.
One little bite of rice had caused all of that!
I thought of how much worse things could have been, and how well taken care of I was in that ambulance on the way to the hospital.
When all was back to normal, I found out which fire house came to help; I wanted to thank them for being there for me and my girls.
I put together a to-go party meal that they could enjoy: a bag of color-coordinated paper goods and decorations with a basket full of homemade food, set up so they could enjoy the meal at their leisure and not rush in between calls.
I hoped the gesture would show them how much they were appreciated, not just by me and my family, but by every person they had ever helped and would ever help again.
A simple joy in their oftentimes hard workday, a simple joy for me to give.
I will never forget them.