John Doe

John Doe

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

John Doe

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty.. . . This is my highest and best use as a human.

Ben Stein

I was a home health nurse coming home after an assignment when I came upon a small white car that had flipped onto its top and was resting in the middle of a deserted, poorly lit county road. I jumped from my car just as a middle-aged man crawled out.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I think I’m okay. Just shook up, but I think I hit someone on a bicycle back there! I swerved to miss him and that’s when the car rolled.”

The shaken driver pointed down the darkened road in the direction from where I had just traveled. I asked a passerby to call 911 and started down the roadside ditch in search of the bicycler. Approximately 200 feet later, I came across the body of a large, muscular, blond male, who looked to be in his midthirties, clad only in his tennis shoes and shorts, lying facedown in the grass and weeds.

I checked for a pulse, but could not find one. I yelled for help to log-roll him onto his back so I could recheck for a pulse. Another passerby helped me turn him, being careful to keep his spine aligned. The injured man was bleeding from his mouth and ears. When I still couldn’t locate a pulse, I initiated CPR, and was rewarded with a return of a pulse by the time the rescue crew arrived. The man was taken immediately to University Medical Center, the only trauma-one center located in downtown Jacksonville, Florida.

Several days later, I noted in the local paper that a young man fitting the description of the one I had resuscitated had died after being struck by a car while on his bicycle. When I went to visit my parents and brother in Brunswick, Georgia, I recounted my story of trying to save his life. This was at the height of AIDS awareness when its dire consequences were felt to be a certain death sentence. I have a nervous habit of biting the inside of my mouth, so I said to them, “I don’t know anything about the young man, except for his name. I should probably be tested for AIDS in six months or so.”

I tried not to worry as I went on with my life, but the nagging threat remained.

Several weeks later I received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as the wife of the man I had attempted to resuscitate.

“How did you find me?” I asked, dumbfounded. No one at the scene had taken my name or my phone number.

The woman explained that she had a first cousin who was an electrician at the navy base in another state where my brother, also an electrician, had been discussing the accident. My brother mentioned his sister had resuscitated a “John Doe” who’d been struck by a car while riding his bicycle, and the cousin realized that it was his relative who was the victim.

“Thank you so much for trying so hard to save him,” the woman said through obvious tears. “I’m a 911 dispatcher, so I know a little about how that must have been for you.” She paused. “He was a wonderful man; I want you to know about him.”

She went on to share how they’d been best friends since they were twelve years old. “He gave me a cigar wrapper as a ring to show his devotion,” she chuckled. “We were married for seventeen years. He was a baseball coach for our three boys and a volunteer fireman. Sometimes he had trouble sleeping at night and would take a bicycle ride to unwind; that’s what happened on the night of his accident.”

I heard her catch her breath before she recounted how he’d never regained consciousness and was brain-dead. The family decided to removed life support and fulfill his wishes to become an organ donor.

“Thanks for resuscitating him . . . you helped make his wish come true.”

Then, as if she’d been reading my mind, she added, “We loved only each other, exclusively, our whole lives. You needn’t worry about anything affecting your health.”

A wave of relief washed over me.

Only nurses could believe that all these mysterious coincidences could not be coincidences at all.

L. Sue Booth

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