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Monday, April 15, 2013

A Hilarious Lesson in Humility

Commanding a mature presence at the ripe old age of twenty-four, isn’t easy. All but two of my twenty-one trainees were older than I by, probably, a decade. Plus, I was the trainer, so shouldn’t I seem to know what I was doing at all times? Funnily enough forty years later, I know better; I’m okay not to know all that there is to know in any of the various jobs in which I’ve been employed. Knowing how to find the answers to what I don’t know is the key, but I hadn’t found this key when I was just beginning my stint as the head of the ambulance service. Boy, did I do some dumb things!

Sometimes, the family member of the patient saved me from enormous embarrassment. One such example was the middle-of-the-night knock on my shaky front door.

Jumping out of bed in a deep-sleep fog, I ran for the telephone sitting on the apple crate. When I heard only a dial tone, I decided I’d been dreaming and started back for the bedroom. Knock, knock, knock! This time it was louder and more insistent.

Okay, it wasn’t the phone; it’s the door, I told myself while reversing direction. I opened the door and saw an Indian man standing in the doorway, hat in hand.

“Please come! My wife’s having a baby and the baby doesn’t want to come. Please, come help her!”

My adrenaline kicked in mightily as I motioned the man in and reached for my jeans. Every night before going to bed, I stacked my clothing on the chair next to the phone. Piled in the exact order I needed for the fastest time from pj’s to fully-dressed EMT-A garb, the new father-to-be suddenly realized I was about to get dressed. “Uh, well, er, I’ll just wait out here,” The poor man slammed the front door between us.

“Oh, thank you, Lord! What in the world was I thinking?” I whispered my gratitude while pulling on jeans, tee shirt and socks. My pajamas in a heap on the floor where I’d tossed them. In less than sixty seconds, I climbed into the ambulance, off to pick up my driver. The patient’s husband came along to help us find his house; there were no formal addresses.

The end of the story is that his wife and son both were fine, with even enough time to transport them all to the hospital forty-five minutes away.

The return trip included a mental review of the ambulance call from that first knock on my front door. I’d quickly learned to have the stack of clothing ready when the phone rang after losing time frantically hunting for an essential piece of the outfit on prior occasions. Normally, the family member walked to the police station and they phoned me, since there were so few telephones in the town. So, this potential for embarrassment and exposure was a first for me. I figured I might have been protected by the shock of the distraught husband, but didn’t take it for granted that the next time would end as innocently. Change was implemented immediately.

If my team had heard anything of my blunder, no one mentioned it to me. However, the team was likely not to say anything, preferring to defer to their fearless leader and assume I’d learn better. As I got to know each one more personally, they did take some cautious steps in directing me away from potential for error. However, I wasn’t always as receptive as I should have been. Bottom line: I deserved to have my pride humbled!

What patience and kindness the twenty-one future EMT-A’s demonstrated towards their young instructor. We were nearly at the end of the training period and had only a few lessons left to complete. “Okay, folks, anyone remember what the book says about lifting a victim off the ground if you don’t have a board to keep him flat?”

“If the victim is a woman, the heaviest part should be at the hips so the strongest EMT should take the hips and the other one, the shoulders. If it is a man, the shoulders are the heaviest.”

“Correct! Let’s try it.” Pointing to Mary, all of five feet tall, the three of us assumed our positions — Mary stretched out, Eddy kneeling by her hips and the instructor by her shoulders, according to the book. It was rather a tight squeeze with chuckles from the watching squad because Eddy was a giant of a man who probably weighed-in at 300 pounds. Not a lot of wiggle room with such a small victim.

“Just a minute, please. I have a question?” I leaned back on my heels and looked up at one of the other ladies on the team. “I was just wondering…I mean, Mary has done a lot of heavy work in her life and, well, I was thinking…maybe Mary’s body is really heavier at the shoulders than the hips.” The nods of agreement didn’t escape my notice, but making changes in what the book said was not a part of my experience yet.

Looking down at Mary, arms already hugging her chest, ready to be rolled and lifted. “I’m not so sure that makes a difference. The book didn’t make any exceptions to the rule so let’s just go with it. She’s had a few kids, so the book says that this should be her heaviest section.”

The faces on the team didn’t show their reaction, but the Northern Cheyenne didn’t usually use their facial expressions to expose their thoughts. The thing is, I was in “instructor mode” already, and back-tracking or re-thinking anything I said just didn’t fit in with my already in-motion activity. I gave a nod to Eddy that we’d continue with the exercise…just as the book described.

Mary’s arms still crossed and resting on her chest, we inched our arms under Mary’s body, preparing to lift her up and roll her like a log onto our chests. Then, in unison, we would stand, “victim” secured for transport to the waiting gurney. Uh, well, that’s how the diagrams show it should happen anyway.

“On three!” I shouted out the count and, with a grunt, contracted my biceps and upper body muscles. Eddy did the same, without the grunt. Using one fluid movement, Eddy lifted Mary’s hips, rolled her lower half against his chest, and stood… exactly as the book illustrated.

Sadly, I was still kneeling, and pulling with all my might to lift Mary’s upper half from the floor when Eddy stood. I had done this maneuver, in one smooth motion, a dozen times; how could this be happening? Eddy, aware of the dead silence in the room, broke his concentration to see what had caused the quiet.

Mary’s body hung suspended, as though the film had stopped in the middle of an action sequence. Her head down, arms still crossed, Mary’s small body had twisted at the waist when Eddy stood. Her upper half dangled above the floor. Petite Mary remained in character, playing the victim, but my own arms barely touched her back.

Eddy gently set Mary’s lower half back on the ground and offered his hand to help her stand. The entire squad just looked at me; not a single person said a word.

“Okay, so sometimes the book is wrong.” My red-hot face must have glowed the embarrassment, but my smile was all they needed to let the laughter rip. It was then I noticed that this petite lady, indeed, had narrow hips and an extremely muscular upper body. Well, they’d tried ever-so gently to draw my attention to what everyone else could see. Perhaps, the hint was too gentle for their inflexible, young trainer.

I wish I could say this was the only mistake I made during my time on the reservation; sadly, it isn’t, but I did learn from each one. One very special custom I learned from the Northern Cheyenne team was this: A mistake can be made, but once it has been dealt with, it is never again mentioned; it’s just forgotten. How grateful I was to experience this profound truth of God’s Word in action, as I lived and worked amongst this precious Native American nation.

God’s Word says that once we’ve repented of a sin, and God has forgiven us according to his Word and His character, it is never mentioned again. It is as far as the East is from the West to God; He’ll never bring it up to you ever again. Like the above experience as a trainer, I never forgot that I did this foolish thing, but the pain of it was just not there, because the people let me move on without the sting of embarrassment.

If you have repented of something against God or His commandments, been forgiven of it by God, then just forget it; God has! Move on; God will always give us another chance, if we sincerely want to do what’s right in His eyes. Obey Him, repent when you mess up, accept that God forgave you, and move on in His victory over the consequences of sin. You are free!

Hebrews 8:12 “... and will remember their sins no more.”

Psalm 103:12 “… as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Romans 4:7-8 “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”

****Best Left to God …Next Post

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