My Knight in Shining New Balances and Other Heroes
April 20, 2012 § 5 Comments
Instead of giving you the play-by-play of what happened from the time I got to the med tent until…well, today, I’m just going to go down the list of incredible people who have risen to the occasion and the miracles God has planted along the way. I have to say, they all outweigh the disappointment of not finishing a race by a ton.
1. Jason the Paramedic, Dr. Jennifer, and Luke from Oklahoma
The first guy in the Mile 18 med tent, Jason, was so soothing and reassuring. He was completely on my side. He wanted me to finish the race. I was falling apart and he was not. I wish I could find him and tell him how huge that was for me. When I was wheeled into the finish line med tent and laid down on a cot next to a guy who was having severe calf pain, a bespectacled girl came over and introduced herself as Dr. Jennifer. She smiled the entire time she was with me and had such compassion in her eyes. I wanted to be her. I couldn’t believe that out of the entire tent, she was giving me her undivided attention, letting me use her iPhone, asking me about every point of pain, and all without any sense of condemnation or finger-pointing. Just total caring.
After about 30 minutes of some massage and stretching, I was about to have a nervous breakdown. I knew my dad was looking for me and I had no idea how he was going to find me. I had called him from about 5 different phones, talked to him twice, and left a voicemail the last time, telling him to come to the med tent. But I found out I was in a restricted area. We were supposed to catch flights at 6:30 and we still had to go back to Brookline to the hotel to get our stuff. I was alternating between praying and panicking. Finally, I told them, “I think I’m ok. I can get up now. I have to go.”
They filled out the paperwork and signed off on me and I stood up, took two steps and crumbled. I couldn’t even make it to the walkway in the middle of the med tent.
Anyway, long story short, I ended up in a wheelchair being pushed by a guy from Oklahoma named Luke. They told him he wasn’t allowed to take me anywhere outside of the restricted area, and he broke all the rules and pushed me all the way down to the baggage bus, two blocks away, letting me hold his phone and repeatedly call my dad. In the baggage area, someone came up to him and chewed him out for bringing me down there. I was like, “I’m so sorry!” And he said, “Oh, I don’t care. I’ll never see that guy again.” ”Yeah,” I said, “but you’ll never see me again, either.” Heart of gold right there, people. Luke from Oklahoma.
After Luke dropped me off, I stood clinging to a rail that separated the runners from the spectators. I had talked to my dad and he was at a subway station somewhere close by. Suddenly, I looked up and there he was in the crowd. I’m tearing up thinking about the moment I saw his face. It was like I had caught onto a lifeline. I screamed, “DAD! DAD!” And he saw me and ran over and held me. From that moment on, I knew it was going to be ok. I didn’t cry again until after I left him that night at the airport. I just literally felt giddy to be with him. He half-carried me down the steps of the subway so we could try to catch it to our hotel. On the cement stairway, somehow there was a sturdy branch just laying there.
I used the branch as my cane for the rest of the day, which helped immensely. Dad’s bedside manner kicked into high gear, as he gave me the very best of his attention, preempted every need I might have, made sure I was comfortable and taken care of, and was just very present, calm, and cheerful, telling me stories about his morning and spectating and giving me the space I needed some of the time just to be. We had to rush to the hotel, where I gingerly rinsed off, put on compression tights, took some Advil, and stuffed a few peanut butter crackers in my face. Then we caught the subway to the airport. Dad had to stand the entire time while I sat comfortably. We met a beautiful and gracious woman, Diane, who happened to be from Louisiana but had lived in Boston 12 years, and we talked her ear off the entire ride. She told us a shorter way to get to the airport than we had been planning, praise God.
It was so hard to leave Dad on the bus to his terminal and get off to go into mine. I kissed him good-bye and limped off.
After the help of about a dozen very sweet security people, airport officials, and wheelchair pushers, I somehow made it onto my plane and collapsed into a chair next to a lovely girl with a finisher’s medal on. ”Are you okay?” She asked me and for the first time since I’d seen my dad, I broke down. Then she started crying. A total stranger! I briefly told her what had happened and she goes, “Well, I feel like a jerk,” and took her medal off. Who does that?! It turned out we had been running along side each other for most of the race and had both seen each other (she had her name written on duct tape across the front of her shirt and I had mine written on both of my arms in Sharpie). By the end of the plane ride, I wanted to adopt her as my new sister. She kept checking in with me, asking how I was, even though she was also in pain and kept rubbing her right knee. When we landed, she went up to the front and requested a wheelchair be sent for me.
4. Jared, the Knight in New Balances
First, the boy from Ghana who wheeled me halfway across the world to catch my flight to New Orleans is worth mentioning. I told him I had lived with a girl from Ghana last fall, and he loved that. I asked if he was a believer and he said, yes and that he had had to quit soccer because he was an Adventist and their Sabbath is on Saturdays, when soccer matches take place. I told him he should take up running, cause most races are on Sundays.
He pushed me to a seat near a power outlet so I could plug in my phone. He was worried about leaving me because I wouldn’t be able to get myself to the gate, but I told him I thought I could lean on the wheelchair and get myself there that way. The guy sitting across from me, who looked like any young traveling exec, said, “Oh, I can take you anywhere. I’ll take care of you.”
Jared. I so regret not asking for his number. This guy was raised right. For the next 30 minutes, he made me feel like I was the most fascinating, beautiful woman in the world. In a totally non-creepy way. And bear in mind that I had on compression tights, a long-sleeve tech tee, not one speck of make-up, and I had pulled my hair back without looking in the mirror sometime a few hours before. Not really at my most attractive. But he sat there and asked me all about myself, told me all about himself, and then wheeled me to the gate, talked to the attendant for me, gave up his seat for me (because I was originally seated in an exit row), held my bags, let me hold his arm down the walkway, found places for my bags in the overhead bin, and when I said thank you said, “It’s my honor!”
I didn’t know they made them like that anymore. So thankful for this guy.
6. Countless Others
I can’t even tell about all the others: Ryan, the New Orleans Airport concierge who called the Hilton for me, where my car was parked, and waited over 30 minutes with me for the shuttle to get there. Or the man in the parking lot where we were waiting who gave me his package of Biscoff cookies. Or my cousin Kate who I got home (exhausted at 2am) to find a Facebook message from, saying how proud of me she was. Or my amazing, amazing friend Matt who brought over his crutches and a plate of warm brownies the next night. Or precious Megan who left balloons and beer on my doorstep while I was napping on Wednesday.
And I cannot even begin to express how supported and carried I have felt by my family and my fellow marathoner and my friends. Just to let you know–they’re good in a crisis.
These are the people you want on your team.
So thankful. So filled to overflowing. Still limping, but truly believing that the power of love is helping heal me. Tuesday, I was flat on my back all day and couldn’t walk two steps. Lots of tears. Wednesday, I went to see Ian for some active release therapy and I could walk very slowly and haltingly. Yesterday, I made it to class and even turned in my homework on time! Today, I can tell it’s even better.
And God is teaching me that He wants me to filter every single thing–every event, every person’s opinion, every thought from my own soul–through His deep, deep love for me.
This quote from Helen Keller was the theme for me and my dad in Boston, and it continues to apply:
Life is either a daring adventure,