By Karen Jahn
The air is still, the light is gold suffused with rose, the lawn and garden lush, and the dark red barn mysterious in the shade. I’m lying on the couch, feet propped up, finishing a novel which has been entertaining me for hours. Half way through a deep sigh I cough, gasp for breath, and realize that I can’t seem to take it in. Suddenly the view before me is like a shore glimpsed by a swimmer going under for the last time. Tearing myself away from that idyllic moment, I stumble to the kitchen, pick up the phone and start to dial a friend. This is no moment for friends, my lungs urge, I need 911.
Now I’m an absurdly stoic person who would like to think I can take care of myself and seldom ask for help. But the body’s powerful. As it’s going under, it demands all one’s attention. So, brushing aside the fear that I might be crying wolf, I dial the magical numbers. As so many people before and since have found, the calm voice of the dispatcher whose low-keyed questions get all the data needed, stills the panic. Having gotten my 911 number, directions, he asks, you’re having a lot of trouble breathing, aren’t you? A bit taken aback that it's so clear, I admit yes; well, he continues, the rescue team is coming up your road right now. They should be there in a minute. Are you alone? Just make sure they can get in and wait for them.
As he hangs up, I lie down, trying to get some air from my cpap machine, but to no avail. There is a knock and four men from the Spencertown, New York Fire Department are standing there. They introduce themselves as they unzip their bags, get out the oxygen, tube, and mask, and the ecg machine. Clearly they know just what to do and they are going to take care of my emergency. Even though I was still having trouble breathing, I begin to relax, the terror has passed and I know I will be alright. Soon I am in an ambulance headed for the hospital.
The doctors find my lungs completely full of fluid, a condition called congestive heart failure. I needed a powerful dose of oxygen to get air in. I am treated and I survive, thanks to that emergency team that appeared at my door.
I want to publicly thank these six men and many folks like them all over the U.S. These people volunteer their time to become highly trained technicians who serve our emergency needs. Although I wouldn't wish a crisis on anyone, I would urge everyone to support their volunteer fire department and rescue personnel--with both contributions and respect. Their competence and generosity are astounding. I owe my life to their common sense, skill, and dedication. Many thanks to them and their companies for being there for me, so powerfully and so kindly.
Spencertown, New York