This was a particularly oppressive day and there are a few elderly folks who are too stubborn to stay home, so they find their way to church and struggle to make it through the service. This one older man, Tom, was not looking so great as he struggled to find his way through the door and to a seat. Tom was leaning heavily on his walker and taking labored breaths as beads of sweat poured off his forehead much faster than he could manage to reach into his back pocket, grab his handkerchief and wipe off.
Several people immediately approached him, some telling him how silly he was to leave his air conditioned room at the assisted living facility where he lives and some, expressing their concern and asking how they could be of help. One young child found his way to the parish hall kitchen and retrieved a cold bottle of water for Tom, which made him smile.
After a few moments, Tom settled into his seat, wiped the sweat off his forehead, drank some water and seemed to find a place of comfort and peace as he began his quiet prayer ritual before the service begins. Everyone that was tending to Tom, who was sitting on the opposite end of the same pew as I, had gone back to where they were sitting and prepared for the start of service just minutes away.There was that usual moment of silence as the organ prelude ended prompting everyone to stand, then the organ sounded again as the procession began and everyone began to sing. Once the song ended and the priest began the service, Tom made a bellowing sound then collapsed. As if some instinct I didn’t know I had took over my body, in an instant I shouted to the crowd, “Folks, please stay put or make your way out to the parish hall. Brad, I need your assistance here (Brad was sitting about a dozen rows back and works for a living as an Emergency medical professional. Joan, who was sitting right behind me stood by as well, I handed her my phone and she called 911.
The wardens of the church very efficiently took charge of crowd control and getting everyone out of the sanctuary safely and before long, a team of paramedics were on hand and shortly thereafter, Tom was in an ambulance and on his way.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *I woke up in the middle of the night unfamiliar with my surroundings. After clearing the cobwebs, I realized I was in the hospital. I uncontrollably yelled, “Help!” Then fumbled for the call button and pressed it uncontrollably until a nurse appeared and snatched the call button from me, asked me to calm down in a voice that wasn’t exactly comforting and then said something about checking my vitals.
While attempting to take my blood pressure, her voice and tone relaxed, she said, “please, sir, I will tell you anything you want to know but let me first take your blood pressure; it will be alright, I promise.” I took a deep breath, a very deep breath and held it for a few seconds before releasing it slowly. The nurse got her blood pressure reading, added it to my chart at the foot of the bed then just as she was about to start talking, the Senior Warden from church, my friend Dave appeared and asked, “so how the heck are you show off!”I almost yelled at him, “Dave, what the heck is going on? Why am I in the hospital? How did I get here?” Dave told me that “if I shut up for a few minutes” her would tell me everything so I hushed and he spoke, “Tom was coming into church and not looking so good, so you found your way to help him. You were discussing with him how you had decided to walk the six miles to church today figuring you could get in your workout outdoors before the heat hit, but were unpleasantly surprised how the heat kicked in way earlier than anyone, especially the weather folks, expected. You were boasting to him how you had gotten through the six mile trek, without water but how proud you were of yourself for bringing a spare shirt. Then, you dropped like a ton of bricks and Brad and Joan got 911 on the horn and treated you with their expertise until they took you here. Don’t you remember anything?”
Evidently, I fell asleep somewhere mid-story. I awoke sometime later to find a note from Dave with the story he told me written down and an exclamation to stop harassing the nurses. Why did I remember Tom getting sick and me helping him?I’m still confused but they say that dehydration and heatstroke can do that to you. I’ll have another day here to ponder it all.