Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Extremely Casual Acquaintance

On Monday, November 15th, I made the trip down to Wichita to see someone in the hospital who I have only known in passing. The only verbal contact that we have had over the years amounted to no more than a polite, “Hello,” or “Have a nice day.”

The world changed for one of us on Veteran’s Day 2010 when this extremely casual acquaintance was hit by a pickup truck as he was crossing U.S. 81 near Subway here in Concordia. I happened to just see him within 30 seconds of being hit on this dark, cold, rainy evening.

After hearing a lady cry out that someone had been hit, I turned from car as I was grabbing my Bible and another book to read as I had supper. Dropping the books on my car seat, I grabbed my fire radio after and called for Medic 1 as I trotted across the parking lot. This extremely casual acquaintance was a crumpled mass in the highway.

Looking down at lifeless eyes, I radioed for help again. I could hear the sirens, but scene safety as traffic was backing up became my priority. A lady reached in and felt for a pulse on his neck and announced that she felt one. The ambulance pulls up. I grabbed the long spine board and head blocks. Police cars pull up. Another EMT arrives. I unload the cot. He is loaded. I grab the IV kit for the Paramedic. We go Code Red to the hospital. Everything is a blur.

Later that evening, the extremely casual acquaintance is transferred to Wichita. I pray with the driver of the pickup. Life goes back to normal.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday pass. I wonder how the man is doing. People ask me. People call me. On Monday, I make a couple of calls to learn some and not very much. After the chaos of the event and the busyness of the weekend, that “still small voice” of First Kings 19:12 comes into play.

I head to Wichita. Not knowing what I will find. Not knowing what to do. I just head that way. Arriving at 7:30 p.m., I find the surgery waiting room. The name is proper and I wait. Wait some more. Someone checks back in surgery. Wait some more. The extremely casual acquaintance has been in surgery for a long, long time. I wait some more.

At 10:30 p.m., I make another phone call. A very friendly voice does some checking. She calls me back. She takes me to the Surgery Intensive Care Unit’s waiting room. We visit with the ward clerk. I leave to have supper. Nothing exciting is open in Wichita that late, so Denny’s it is. Yuck.

I return to SICU and am told to wait another 20 minutes. Back in the waiting room, I read in Mark about the Last Supper, the Arrest and the Trial of Jesus. I clear the Jehovah’s Witnesses material out of the waiting room.

I go back to the SICU and am directed to room 21. There I see the extremely casual acquaintance. He is on a ventilator. He is dead to this world. He is bruised. He is battered. He is a pin cushion of tubes and instruments. I visit with the nurse who is nice and polite. It is midnight. I leave a book, “More Than A Carpenter”. Looking back, I think that was dumb. I say a simple prayer. Looking back, that is all I could do.

The surgical team comes by and checks things over. I am not even a blip on their radar. I bid farewell to the nurse. Exchange a comment with the surgical team. Time to go home, it is 12:15. I think to myself that I will be in bed by 3:00.

Several times in visiting with Lisa that day, night and morning of a new day, the question comes up, “Was it worth it?” There is nothing to gain. No one would fault me for staying home. Most people would just turn away. For Lisa and me, one simple thing comes to our minds: “. . . I was sick, and you visited Me . . .” – see Matthew 25:35-46. That is what you do for an extremely casual acquaintance.