To the Firefighter Who Sang to My Autistic Daughter
To the firefighter who sang to my autistic daughter,
You have put in thousands of hours training to become a firefighter. You physically train so you’re capable of saving people from a variety of life-threatening situations, and you are also capable of providing medical support under unimaginable levels of stress to keep those people alive until they arrive at the hospital. Your dedication, training and study saves lives.
Last Tuesday around 8:20 a.m., you arrived at the horrific scene of my mangled car. I had lost control, ran off the road, over-corrected and crossed two lanes of traffic. The last thing I remember was thinking, “Oh, sh*t. I’m about to wreck,” before hitting a huge tree going about 60 MPH.
They told me I hit four trees and a mailbox, but my memory gets hazy right before I ran off the road. The next thing I recall is some man standing beside my open door, holding something against my bleeding head and telling me I was OK. Things get a little fuzzy again, and then I remember paramedics sliding me out of my car and onto a backboard.
I had a deep gash, about two and a half inches long, across the back of my head, and blood seemed to just pour out of it. My entire right hand was ripped to shreds, and every inch of my body felt a type of pain that no human being should ever have to endure. But none of that mattered. All I cared about was my baby girl, who was sitting in the backseat. I heard her crying, so I knew she was alive, but that was all I knew.
All of you were asking me tons of questions, sticking IVs in my arms, cutting off my clothes, and trying to control all the bleeding. But all I could think about was my daughter Raelyn. I kept repeating over and over, “She’s autistic. She can’t talk. She can’t show you where she hurts. She’s gonna be so scared. Please get my husband or my mom here so they can hold her. Please just get someone here.”
We had to get to the hospital, so we couldn’t wait around for someone to get there. My sweet baby was probably terrified, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. She was being held by you, a complete stranger, while her mommy was covered in blood, strapped down to a backboard.
You know that sinking feeling you sometimes get in your gut?
Well, every time I heard her cry the way she only cries when she’s terrified, that feeling came rushing back. It is still too fresh to bear. You were holding her and trying everything you could to calm her down. Nothing was working, so you asked me what calms her down. Then I made one of the strangest requests you have probably ever received. I asked you,
“Will you please sing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ to her?”
So you did. For the entire 20-minute drive. And she stayed relatively calm. I believe you were an angel in the flesh who was sent to us for a reason. You are the reason I was able to keep breathing. Knowing my child was safe and not in pain allowed me to take another breath.
Every minute that went by without hearing her cry was another minute I was relatively at ease. I knew my body would eventually heal and the physical pain would fade. But there’s that type of pain I believe only a parent can understand: the pain you feel when your baby is scared or hurt. That hurt me so much more than hitting that tree head on. Each time she cried, I physically couldn’t breathe. I wanted to just hold her and tell her it was OK, but I couldn’t. I was completely incapacitated, strapped down to that backboard, while I relied on you to comfort my kid.
Well, you did the unthinkable.
You managed to keep a mom from completely losing her sh*t while her daughter was terrified. As a nurse, I know when you perform a medical procedure for the first time, you’re nervous as hell and praying your patient doesn’t sense your fear. You put on your game face and hope to hell you don’t screw up. I don’t know if you have children, but if you don’t, you damn sure fooled me that day. I had complete faith in you taking care of my baby.
You didn’t have to sing to her in the back of that ambulance. If you hadn’t, she probably would have been fine. But I wouldn’t have been. People talk about PTSD after a car accident, but the sound of crushing metal and the smell of the air bags after they’ve deployed are not what keeps me up at night. The thought of how scared she must have been the moment she realized we were about to wreck is what haunts me. Aside from not wrecking, there was nothing I could have done to comfort her during what is probably the scariest moment of her life. But once you got there, you made it your mission to make her (and me) believe that everything was OK.
So thank you for going above and beyond what you’re trained to do for your job. Thank you for giving me those brief moments of hope while she was content and quiet. By keeping her calm, you kept me sane (relatively). You made the most traumatic experience of my life sting a little bit less. Our car wreck was just another day on the job for you, but you left a lasting impression on me, and I will never forget what you did for us that day.
Your biggest fans,
Summer and Raelyn
Images via Contributor.
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