Sometimes you are placed in the right place at the right time.
Last Thursday was just such a day.
The evening before, my grandmother, Betty Hans, called, quite upset with a catalogue company called Miles Kimball, whom she had ordered seven personalized porcelain bells with their 7 great-grandchildren's name on. The company had put the names on the bells, but not the year, and when she called to ask them why, they told her to find a red marker and do it herself. (There is lesson #1 - avoid crappy catalogue companies like Miles Kimball.) She needed her beloved granddaughter who has the most beautiful handwriting in the whole family despite being a southpaw - that would be me! - to fix this travesty for her. Which I was happy to do, but on my own time. I told her to take them to my mother's house and I would pick the box up after work that day.
Many obnoxious things happened that Thursday. Our front doorknob fell right off the door with no rhyme or reason. My husband picked a squabble with me regarding a sale on my etsy.com website and what I should do with the money from it. My ONLY appointment for that day cancelled on me without telling me - I just showed up and found out at the front desk that she had "gone home sick". The receptionist actually used the finger quotes in the air while rolling her eyes. (The company called me today to tell me they fired her, so I didn't need to come back out to actually write her insurance policy applications at all.) And I felt a strong urge to simply pray. My list was a mile long - and yet I just felt like praying. (Lesson #2 - when all things in life feel like they need to take the backseat, you should definitely listen.)
And then I felt like going to visit my grandparents, so I called them up and said I'd be there in 20 minutes, since the whole city of Mishawaka is being turned upside down by road construction and what would normally be a 5 minute drive now takes 20 minutes. I digress.
When I reached their little house on the St. Joseph River, I let myself in and Grandpa was coming out of the bathroom (he's on a new medicine for his prostate) and Grandma was in the bedroom, doing some ironing. She was very pleased about this because she hasn't been very healthy for the last couple years and wears out quickly. Any opportunity to do the chores she used to do with no difficulty makes her very happy. We all sat down at the kitchen table and started to talk about my work, and the other grandkids, and my uncle Tom who was promoted to full colonel in the Air Force this year, and all the usual family news. We had gotten onto the topic of Starbucks coffee when I saw all expression leave my grandma's face. It looked like she had fallen asleep, and she didn't say a word - which I assure you, is a clear sign of something wrong.
I leaned over to her and put my hand on her arm. "Grandma? Are you all right?" My grandpa got up from his chair, also realizing that something was very wrong. We asked her if she was overtired from the ironing, or if perhaps she had forgotten one of her pills that morning. She squeezed my hand and my arm and shook her head, but never opened her eyes or said anything. Her breathing sounded strange. (Lesson #3 - learn the signs of stroke. Recognizing the symptoms can save a life.)
I was already reaching for the phone when my grandpa said, "Call 911!" in a shaky, fear-stricken voice. I told the dispatcher that I knew she was having a stroke and needed an ambulance right away. She asked me if Grandma could smile at me - she could, but only the right side of her face could move. The dispatcher then asked if she could lift her arms - again, only the right side. The dispatcher wanted me to ask Grandma to say "The early bird catches the worm" but I replied, "She can't speak at all!"
The dispatcher told me to carry Grandma to a comfortable place and get all her medicines around. We were forbidden to give her any food or water, and to move everything around her in case she fell over or started vomiting.
We took her to her chair and continued to hold her hands and talk to her. She was definitely trying to communicate with us. She groaned and opened her mouth several times, but nothing came out. The paramedics arrived in a shorter time than I could have ever imagined, but they do live just a few blocks from the nearest fire station, so I'm sure that helped. They asked us a few questions, then lifted her up and carried her out the front door, where the gurney was waiting. Minutes later, they were driving away.
The next door neighbor came over in a panic, but she wasn't nearly as panicked as my Grandpa, whom I have never seen cry or show much emotion at all. Seeing him weep like he was nearly put me into meltdown mode. I tried to make phone calls. I tried to stay calm. I tried to know what to do, but all I could do was call my husband at work and ask him if he knew what to do. Fortunately he was able to give me the phone number for my mother's work and I was able to get ahold of her right away. The neighbor, Lori, began the horrible game of phone tag that occurs when trying to locate any of my father's siblings. Paul at Bosch, Jim at the auto shop, Tom on the Air Force base, June at her veterinary clinic and my dad, who happened to be in Chicago that day for classes. I'm glad someone else was doing that and not me.
I drove my grandpa to the emergency room and all he could say the whole way there was "Oh thank God you were here today. Oh thank God you came over today. I'm so glad you were here." And I was almost blinded by tears while trying to drive because I knew it WAS God's hand that I was there that day at all. I had never had any intention of going there that day. All my little annoyances now seemed like nothing because I HAD been there. Because I had prayed for guidance and wisdom about where to go that day, and instead of going to some business to pitch Aflac, I had decided to visit that little house on the river.
My mom met us at the emergency room. She gave me the "Mom Hug" - you know the kind. The ones that only mothers can give when they're providing comfort. It was there that I finally melted down and cried like a baby and shook like I was the one having the stroke.
It's now been five days and Grandma Betty checked out of the hospital last night. She suffered a massive stroke from a blood clot that lodged into her brain. But other than needing a speech therapist, she will make a full recovery. She has regained the ability to use the left side of her body, to move her eyes around and she can speak very slowly and make full sentances. The doctor said it was because we recognized the symptoms of stroke and acted so quickly.
I never want to experience that again, but I'm sure someday I will have to, perhaps with my husband's grandparents, or even our own parents. But I pray that I will be as attuned to the guidance of the Holy Spirit on that future day as I was last Thursday.