Saturday night Pete and I ventured to a little known first-run movie theater to see Indiana Jones. Little known, I say, because when we arrived at theatre #4 there were only four other people there, 10 minutes before showtime.
Pete announced he was going to the restroom before the movie started, so I settled our drinks and snacks and myself into a chair in the dim light. At that point I became aware of one of the other four people on her cell phone, obviously speaking to 911 (interesting how we refer to "911" like it's a person). I stood up and turned around to see another woman lying back in her chair, her husband hunched over her. The woman on the phone was with her husband, also.
The sick woman's husband was relaying information to the woman on the phone:
"She's unresponsive but awake. Lethargic."
At that point I didn't know what to do. A minuted ticked by: the woman on the phone continued to give instructions to the husband. "EMSA is on its way..." she said.
I think I turned back around to face the front again; still unsure what to do. There were two people helping her already and someone on the phone to 911. I have no medical experience whatsoever. I might be in the way. I might confuse the woman on the phone by asking if I could help. I might interrupt the relay of information to the husband.
So I did the only thing I could do without risking any of those things: I started praying. Aloud. And probably hyperventilating just a little. And wondering why Pete had chosen now to pitch a tent in the restroom.
Then I heard a voice say "Can I help?" I turned back around and saw a third person. "Yes," said the woman on the phone. "Get her on the floor on her back and elevate her head."
With the help of the other man, the husband lowered her to the floor. Said the woman on the phone: "Don't put your fingers or anything else in her mouth; she may bite you." Then the sick woman, now on the floor, began thrashing and tensing and moaning very loudly. I believe I started praying even more loudly at this point, my feet still rooted to the floor.
Then silence from the woman on the floor. The woman on the phone says "she probably can't breathe; you have to keep her calm." The new man says "breathe, you're okay, just breathe..."
About that time six or so emergency personnel barreled into the theatre and took over. I breathed a sigh of relief and the woman on the phone walked toward me with her husband. I could see she was sweating and shaking and I told her what an awesome thing she had just done. She said she'd offered to make the call when the woman's husband told her he didn't have a cell phone.
At that point Pete walked up behind me and I started talking a mile a minute..."she had a seizure, where were you, she wasn't breathing, I didn't know what to do..."
He nodded and said "I know, I know..." like he was familiar with people with seizures. "Who do you know who has seizures?" "No one," he says, "I was down there helping her."
Pete was the person who asked if he could help.
Pete was the person who helped lower her to the floor and held her head in his lap.
Pete was the person encouraging her to relax and breathe.
And I was the person whose feet were made of lead.
And I didn't recognize my own husband or his voice two rows away from me.
So the ambulance took the woman away and three minutes later I was oogling Harrison Ford in a Fedora. Life resumed pretty quickly (for us anyway).
Yet part of me sat bumfuzzled by what had just happened. What was it that kept me from offering my help to that woman, yet made it so easy for Pete to jump in the middle of the situation?
Later we talked about it and even laughed. Don't anyone have a medical emergency when Christine's around...best you'll get is a prayer for someone else to help you.
I guess I always thought myself just the opposite type of person. The type to help when I'm needed, the type to take action when it's critical. I remember a recent story about a man who was hit by a car and while he lay in the street onlookers passed him by without helping. "That would never be me..." I said to myself.
Well, it was me. Embarrassingly, it was.
And the only thing I'm proud of right now is that I married someone who has the quality I wish I had.