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Posted: July 17, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Thank you not enough

Dear Editor: It is true that thank you, perhaps the two most overused words in the English language, are filled with a wide range of emotions, all of which are accompanied by some measure of gratitude, sometimes merely simple expressions while others have a grander flair. There are, however, times when although powerful, these two universal words fall miserably short of their task in conveying our heartfelt gratitude. What I am about to share with you is one such event.

On April 23, 2009, my family was altered in a very dramatic way, at least for us. My father (83 years old) who suffers from Alzheimer's fell backwards down the staircase in my parents home, 20 steps, to the bottom. My mother called for me and the sight of my father at the base of those stairs, covered in blood from a head wound was something that I find difficult to explain in terms that convey the true horror that lay before me that day.

I ran to him and held him in my arms. Not knowing the extent of his injuries, I held him as motionless as possible until paramedics arrived. In the moments prior to their arrival, my father stopped breathing. True horror and helplessness overwhelmed me as I sat there with my father's lifeless body in my arms, and indescribable joy engulfed me when after approximately 45 seconds - what seemed like an eternity, he took a most unexpected breath.

Then, with a storm of confidence and compassionate assurance, firemen, paramedics, police officers and officers from the sheriff's department surrounded me. Gently placing him on the floor and in the hands of strangers was not, at the time, an easy task. But they took him as if he was one of their own.

Because of these amazing men and women, on July 5, my parents were able to celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary together. My father broke the C2 vertebrae in his neck, and to give you some idea of just what that means, Christopher Reeves broke his neck in the same exact place. I have thought of countless ways to explain what this group of men and women did for my father and for our family (five sons, one daughter) that day, but only one seems to state it as succinctly as I believe is fitting. These amazing people saved my father's life, of this one all-important fact, we are clear. It is because of the care he received at the scene that my father is not paralyzed from the neck down and, more importantly, his life did not end at the bottom of that staircase. A miracle? These seem to be the words often used by his physicians and others in the medical profession who have since crossed my father's path, phenomenal is another. We were told that an overwhelmingly large percentage of people who break the C2 vertebrae never make it to the hospital alive.

My father has a long road ahead of him; his challenges great and unfortunately seem to have multiplied following his accident, not to mention all that Alzheimer's contributes to his overall condition. He was rushed to the ER for emergency gall bladder surgery three weeks ago and just two days ago, returned again for blood pressure and heart issues, all of which were nonexistent prior to his breaking his neck. In every case, it seems the story was the same with our brave men and women in uniform. To say they are consistent in the jobs they do would not do them justice. Truly a group of professionals, they go above and beyond in every way to care for the people they are called upon to help.

I can only imagine how generic as a whole we must all become to emergency personnel. Just another call, more strangers in need. I know from experience that this is not the case in the small quaint town of Covington. We have entrusted our safety and our lives to a remarkable group of men and women who risk their lives every day to provide a safe place for us to live and play and they do it, in my experience, with a level of compassion and overall excellence that is, well, unexpected. I wish I knew each of them by name. I would list them all and let them know individually what a tremendous gift they gave my family that day in particular, as well as the subsequent visits to my parents. They gave us back our father, for our mother they returned to her the man with whom she has spent the majority of her life and who shares the sort of love and dedication that has deepened with every chapter in their lives, and for those fortunate enough to call him friend, they returned a man who defines the term. I wish I could, in a very grand way, express how important it was to my mother and me, that in the course of doing all that had to be done for my father that day, they did it all with a spirit and compassion that has left a permanent imprint on us.

So, although these two small words do indeed fall short and pale in comparison to the gratitude we feel, from the depths of our hearts, thank you for what you do and for doing it for us that fateful April day. With heartfelt gratitude, we thank you and are so grateful that for these three strangers in need, you answered our call for help and came valiantly to our rescue.


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