Drawing from my limited worldview, I’d say that profound experiences are rare. We don’t realize something truly important very often in life, but I’m comfortable admitting that, over the past two weeks or so, I did. It was brought about by an event that I will try my best to describe in the coming paragraphs. First, I want to note that the event is sort of ongoing and that this particular bit of writing can only be representative of where my head is at currently. Nevertheless, it feels important and worth sharing. After all, profound realizations don’t mean anything until they’ve been posted online.
My dad had a cardiac arrest while he was outside running last weekend. He collapsed and was found by a complete stranger who performed CPR and called for help. From there, he spent nearly two weeks in the ICU and was unconscious during most of that time due to seizure-like activity. Before I give more detail, know that he is awake now and steadily improving. We still don’t know the full extent of his recovery, but the last thing I want to do is post some sensationalist bullshit to keep you in suspense. As it stands, we are confident he will be ok. He’s a tough dude.
This all happened suddenly and the whole process was very uncertain for my family. When I first got the call, my mind immediately went to worst-case scenario, and it took real effort to avoid this type of negative thinking throughout his hospital stay. There were points when I caught myself eulogizing him in my head when things felt especially grim. Friends told me that there was no wrong way to handle it, but in hindsight, none of those negative thoughts were productive.
Unfortunately, any time I hear about a tragedy or loss, cynicism is my natural and default response. Sometimes my better self will remember that very good Mr. Rogers quote about looking for the helpers in scary times, but it’s always existed in the abstract for me. I’d never been alert enough to see the helpers firsthand, not outside of a newscast or something. I’m happy to report that I’ve now seen the helpers on a personal level. But what’s most inspiring is the amount of them that showed up, ranging from close friends to total strangers.
As I mentioned earlier, help came pretty quick for my dad. It was a recent high school graduate who happened to be nearby and witnessed what happened. From everything I’ve heard about her, she acted quickly and calmly as she went through all the steps to get him the medical attention he needed. My mom has since talked to her on the phone and thanked her. Personally, I don’t how I’d do the same without losing it emotionally. As I think about this, I am leaning more towards writing her a letter. I’m just not sure how productive a phone call with a crying 30-year-old man would be for her as she prepares to head off to college.
Despite my limited information and interactions with her, she is the main hero of this story. If not for her, the tone of all this might be wildly different. And while the last thing I want to do is diminish her impulse to save my dad’s life, it’s not the kind of help that I experienced myself. That came later.
In the two-week period that followed this event, I personally experienced love and support unlike anything I’ve ever received. It was an overwhelming rush of positivity that included:
- Family members I hadn’t seen in years driving for days just to comfort us
- Hotel and hospital staff that not only offered us a place to stay, but spent hours talking with us to try to put our minds at ease
- Friends who spent time with me on the phone and in person to let me talk about what I was feeling
- Friends who texted me dumb internet content to distract me from going negative
- Coworkers who gave me unbelievable patience and didn’t hesitate for a second when telling me not to focus on work until I was ready
Honestly, all of these actions made me realize just how bad I am at accepting love and care from people on the day-to-day. Maybe it’s how I was raised? Maybe it feels selfish to accept it outside of difficult circumstances? I don’t know exactly, but at this point I’ve seen more than enough to understand just how badly people want to help one another. It came so naturally to everyone I interacted with during this time and that truly inspires me.
If you are one of those people that came to my aid during this, I’ve probably already thanked you profusely…and I will continue to do so. I don’t want to forget just how important that was to me. That’s actually the main reason I’m writing this –as a lasting reminder to get out of my own head and look for opportunities to pay all of this kindness back to others.
I know I have the luxury of commenting on this from a universe where things worked out for the better, but the support I received made me believe that I would have been able to get through it regardless of the outcome.
As a general rule, you should always be skeptical of a guarantee. There are way too many variables in this life to count on something as a sure thing. But I guarantee that if you fall into a similar situation, you will get the help you need. It’s not always going to happen the same way for everyone, but you will get it. I promise.