Last night at 12:50am, I was standing at the luggage carousel at Midway airport in Chicago having just returned from a very tiring industry trade show in Houston. I had been up since 7am, had to go 14 hrs without eating a real meal because I was by myself and people kept coming into the booth. I had spent 2 1/2 hrs packing up our crate solo and was beat.
I went to plug in my phone near the luggage carousel so I could call Bill who was waiting for me in the cell phone lot. I noticed a young man and a woman who I guessed to be his mom. She seemed very tired and he lovingly put his arm around her. Within a few minutes, he had quickly brought her to the chair next to me where I was holding my phone, waiting for the luggage to begin coming out.
I noticed that she immediately began having seizures. I quietly asked him if he wanted me to get medical help. He said very gently, “No thanks.” And a minute later he asked if I could keep track of the time of the duration of her seizures. I said, “Sure.” As his mother continued to have seizures in the chair he compassionately said, “She’s going to be so bummed. She had to go six months without a seizure to drive and it’s only been three weeks.” I gave him an expression that showed him that I sympathized with her disappointment. Periodically I gave him updates on the time and noticed that it had then been going on for over 10 minutes. It was late so the airport was relatively quiet but I was surprised that only one other person, another woman from a planeload of passengers, came to offer help. I offered to get his suitcase for him when the bags started to come out. He thanked me. I told him he was doing a great job.
His mom came out of the seizures at 14 minutes and looked a bit embarrassed. I told her that I too have a chronic condition and know that it’s hard not to have control over our bodies isn’t it. My bag came and the mom was stable so I wished her well and smiled at her and her son.
Later in the car I told Bill how impressed I was with the young man who cared for her. He was quick to get her to a chair, was calm, lovingly stroked her arms and shoulders while she was in the seizure state, accepted the help he needed and stood over her protectively so she wouldn’t hurt herself. From my perspective, he did everything right. I was really glad I was able to support him even by doing something so simple as keeping time for him.
Americans take great pride in our independence and our ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. The flipside is that it creates an unrealistic expectation that we will always be able to take care of ourselves without help. As someone with a lifelong chronic illness, I recognized the fallacy of this part of our culture a long time ago. We all need help from time to time, some of us more than others. This man was a hero to his mom while she was unconscious. But being willing to ask me to keep time for him, something he couldn’t do at that moment, promoted him to superhero in my book.