So. Gabrielle called me back the next day. Can you give me an idea of what the nurse looked like? My contact at St. Mary’s thinks she knows who it might be, but we want to be sure.
I called Sweetie and asked if he could give me a description of the nurse. She was tall and slender, he said. With long dark hair.
Well, that just goes to show you what trauma can do to an eyewitness, as you will shortly see. Nonetheless, knowing pretty much who Sweetie worked on after the crash (location, the number of people and the extent of their injuries), the nursing director at St. Mary’s was able to put two and two together and give us a name.
Okay. Now we’d found her. She had been told that Sweetie wanted to meet with her and she was open to it. I was told she was very grateful for the help Sweetie had provided. And so emails and phone calls continued apace. I figured somehow I’d arrange it so Sweetie could go over to St. Mary’s and they’d have a reunion in a small office somewhere.
And still we were reeling. Nothing much was making sense. I don’t know about Sweetie, but I think it took me at least three weeks until a day passed that I did not cry.
In the meantime, I was also the database and registration chair for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure which required that I spend much of the week before the race at Boomtown tending to In Person Registration. On top of that I was enrolled in an introductory photography class two nights a week at UNR.
Word came from TIP that Julie was going to be honored at the first ever Heroes with Heart dinner put on by the Trauma Intervention Program of Northern Nevada, and would we like to be their guests? He could meet with Julie there. Yes, that would be great, I replied. Sweetie was excited about the prospect and so we put the date on the calendar: October 6th.
While I was at Boomtown I received an email from Leslie at TIP.
Are you sure you are coming to the dinner? If so, would your husband like to present Julie her award?
I choked up. And there, in the middle of Boomtown’s convention center, the tears began to flow. I was so touched at how hard they were working to help Sweetie and Julie meet, and how much they wanted to make it a meaningful reunion. They were honoring my husband’s healing process and it meant so much to me. I wrote back that I would ask him and let them know. I knew this wasn’t a question I could ask him over the phone, so I waited until I got home that night to tell him of TIP’s offer.
When I told him, he got a funny look on his face. And then he said, I don’t know. This isn’t going to be about me, is it? I don’t want it to be about me at all.
I assured him that nothing would be done that would make him uncomfortable.
I’ll have to think about it, he said.
He came to me the next morning before he left for work. Tell them I’d be honored to present Julie her award. But I don’t want ANYTHING said about what I did.
Okay, sweetheart, I’ll tell them, I replied.
A few more emails and some phone calls, and yes, I was assured, nothing would be said about Sweetie’s role that day.
Sweetie warned me once again, This better not be a set-up. If it is, I’ll bolt.
I assured him, again, that everything was as I told him. I wouldn’t do that to him. No one wanted to do that to him. If there is one thing trauma specialists understand is how victims process their trauma and how important it is to honor their comfort zones.
We got settled in at our table where a Washoe County deputy and his family were already seated. Somewhere in the course of the evening, before dinner was served, Sweetie finally got to meet The Nurse. And as for being a tall, dark-haired woman? No. She was a slip of a thing, with blonde hair. But you see, in that moment, when lives were on the line, she took command. All of her training held her in good stead, and she did was she knew how to do. From what we found out later, this tiny woman is a force. Finally, the small woman with the commanding voice and my dear, rush-in-where-angels-fear-to-tread, heart-bigger-than-his-brain husband met.
And they talked. Sweetie with a scotch in his hand, Julie with a Corona. Julie’s husband stood beside her; I stood with Sweetie.
They talked about the crash and the aftermath, and Sweetie talked about how intense it all was, and how Julie was his focus and how impressed he was with her. And Julie? She could only keep thanking Sweetie for being there. She’s trained, she said. What blew her away were the people like my husband who just jumped in. Lives were saved because of people like him. Sweetie would have none of it. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else.
But it was you, she said. And many others just like you. We couldn’t have done it alone.
Many times since that day I’ve said to Sweetie, I know you don’t think you’re better than anyone else, and I’m not saying that you are, but you were there, and you helped save lives. It’s yours. It was you. It’s okay to own that. It’s okay to be proud of that.
I think Sweetie thought that emergency first responders have some kind of special gene that allows them to turn off their feelings, so when Sweetie asked her how she dealt with all of it I think he was surprised when Julie held up her beer and said, This. And Xanax. Hey, we’re human too. When we are doing the job, that’s one thing. But we have to go home too. We have to process this stuff too.
They finished their conversation and said they’d see each other up on the stage for the presentation.
We sat down to dinner at our table, and Julie went back to hers. We chatted up our table-mates and found out our deputy sheriff was also being honored that evening as a Hero with Heart.
And then it was time for the presentations. There were a number of people being honored. Many of them were first responders who often don’t get recognized for the work they do every day and the many times they go the extra mile. Presenters walked up one side of the stage and honorees the other. They met in the center and each honoree was presented their award along with a handshake and a smile for the camera.
Finally, it was time for Sweetie to give Julie her award. The announcer read a blurb about how Julie’s fast action saved lives at the air races and when they introduced Sweetie they merely noted how impressed he had been by her actions. And he almost got away with it, except for this:
Later Sweetie said he didn’t know where that had come from, but this long, hard, emotional hug Just Happened.
Sweetie was immediately embarrassed. But happy too.
When I got back to the table, wiping away the tears that had been streaming down my face, our table-mates just stared at me. Finally, one of them asked, What exactly was your husband’s role in all of this?
So I told them. Briefly. And then swore them to secrecy. They were NOT allowed to say anything to Sweetie.
After the dinner I tried to get a better photo of Sweetie and Julie, but that was back when my photographic skills were far from what they are today.
But we think we’ll see Julie again this weekend. Hopefully, I’ll get a better shot then.
Yeah. We’re going back. It’s that old horse and getting back on thing. And facing down the fear. And getting on with life.
That night, as we were getting ready for bed, Sweetie said, Thank you, Baby. That really helped. It really did.
I’m so glad. I really hoped it would.
It did. It really did. I really needed that. Thank you. I love you.
I love you too, Babe.