Monday, August 24, 2009
Some family stories become folklore. Legend. This will be one of them. Truth can be stranger than fiction. You can’t make this stuff up.
Ordinary days become locked in time. Coincidences become appointments. Grandma Elaine tells the story. But apart from a last minute child-care assignment, a prayer meeting called by minors, a cell phone, an alert neighbor, and a wonder drug, the eighty two year old woman would have had her last conversation on July 17 of this year.
The two moms, also sisters, often collaborate. The cousins spend a lot of time together, and it is convenient that Stephanie Mechem and Pam Ellis’s mother lives the next town over. They call on her often to watch the children on any given day. But this day would be anything but ordinary.
As Blake (8), Sara (8) and Ireland (5) chatted with their grandmother, Elaine laughed and teased like always. Stephanie and Pam ran their errands. It was nearly suppertime when Grandma Elaine, seated on the couch, stopped talking. She sat, semi-conscious, immobile as the three children played.
“Grandma!” called Blake. No reply. Eyes open, she stared into nothingness.
“Grandma!” Sara repeated. Still nothing. “Wake up!” No response.
Frightened, the children began to cry. It was Ireland, the youngest, who said, “We need to pray.”
So the three of them left grandma for a few moments and went into the bedroom where, shaking with fear, through their tears, they held hands and addressed the living God. They prayed for their grandmother. They asked God to help them to know what to do. They hugged on each other. Cousins with a task ahead. A role to play. A mission.
That’s when they moved into action.
“We’ve got to call 9-1-1,” Blake said.
Later, Grandma Elaine said that all the while, she was conscious of the children. She heard them calling to her. She tried to reply. She could not. She heard them pray. It was a severe stroke. It paralyzed her body and her face. Though the children could not tell, she could see. She could hear. As she witnessed their response, helpless, motionless on the couch, she was filled with emotion. But it had nowhere to go. The only evidence was a tear falling from her vacant eye.
Young Blake dialed the number. The attendant responded skillfully. Later, Sara’s dad, Dave Mechem, would hear the recording of the call at the Fire Station. “It was incredible,” he said. Because it was a mobile phone, the emergency officer could not trace it. Blake and Sara needed to find a way to explain how to find Grandma’s apartment. Blake ran down the hall with a key to the mailbox, hoping to find a letter with the address. A neighbor noticed the panic stricken boy, and asked if he could help. Soon he was on the line, and the medics appeared within minutes.
It is a three-hour window for stroke victims. The medics had Grandma Elaine in the emergency room well within that time frame, and administered the powerful drug that broke up the clots and restored circulation in her brain, soon enough that within a day or two, after lots more prayer from family and friends who were alerted near and far, she was speaking clearly and laughing with her arms around the children who did the right thing.
It is a sweet picture in my mind, three young children hanging on to each other in Grandma’s bedroom, shaking with fear and little five year old Ireland calling for prayer with their grandmother helpless in the next room listening in.
The reunion caught the attention of the hospital staff, and then the media. The story has been highlighted in print and on television.
It has been a bright light witness to family and good parenting and ready access to heaven.
The on-duty nurse said it straight. If grandma had been home alone that day, she would have gone for hours unnoticed. The tests indicated that the stroke was massive. It would have either resulted in her death or taken her capacity for speech and mobility away for the rest of her life.
The paper quoted little Ireland. “We prayed to God. We prayed to Grandpa, too. We asked them to make sure that Grandma would be OK.”
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009