I watched as my friend threw herself behind this virtual stranger to keep her from hitting her head on the asphalt. As she cradled the convulsing woman in her lap, I realized that everyday super heroes don’t come with capes or secret identities, but their powers do come from within.
Rewinding to earlier in the day: we we had made the trek into Fremont for the Solstice Parade, braved crazy traffic to find parking, and then hiked nearly ten blocks to meet at a friend’s house for a pre-party to get ready to go see the parade. For anyone not familiar with Seattle, The Fremont Solstice Parade is put on by the Arts Council and requires that any float placed in the parade is non-motorized. So the creativity flows as people push, pull, bike, and march their way through the parade route with odd floats and blaring music. Oh, and let’s not forget the naked people in body paint on bicycles…
My friend and I had met another gal at the pre-funk. I had been watching my friend like a hawk because of the long walk from the parked car, the intense afternoon heat, and the fact that she had just received another chemo treatment just the day before for the cancer that she had discovered last year eating away at her body. She was dressed in lacy, elegant, flowing summer pants, a cool, loose, shimmering top, and a broad rimmed black hat that gave her an air of mystery even when she took off her sunglasses. She carried herself with such ease and grace that I don’t think anyone at the party realized that anything might have been amiss about her health.
We were mingling with the people there and befriended another young woman who decided to come see the parade with us. Even with a late start pushing into the crowd we managed to situate ourselves in a spot right up against one of the barricades that gave us a great view of the parade right at street level.
Standing in the sun for nearly two hours oohing and ahhhing over the various floats and impressive marching bands, I knew that my sunblock might be giving out but kept sipping on water. Our new acquaintance looked a little restless and said that she was going to get some water.
“I have a bottle right here,” I told her offering up the liquid.
“No, that’s ok,” she declined, “I think I’ll get one of my own.
Within ten seconds she was back and said, “On second thought can I have some of that water? I’m getting a little light headed.”
I nodded in agreement and handed over my bottle. She unscrewed the lid and then it dropped to the ground. I bent over to grab it and when I looked up she was leaning very heavily on the barricade, not sipping any of the water and looking unfocused.
“Are you ok?” I asked her.
I didn’t get any response and she continued to look unfocused and leaned more heavily into the barricade. I asked her again and then realized her hands were shaking. I grabbed the bottle from her and tried to get her to look at me and then she began convulsing. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed backwards where my friend had strategically placed herself when things started happening.
In just seconds our new acquaintance was cradled in my friend’s lap, still unresponsive but no longer shaking. My first thought was heat stroke, but it seemed to be a strange symptom to be going into a full seizure and her skin didn’t seem flushed at all. I began to suspect it could be a blood sugar issue. We poured water on her and I looked at my friend, “Call for help,” I voiced the words wondering why in this massive sea of people not a single one of them had stopped to help us or this woman.
As if my plea had gone out to the universe, there was a man suddenly standing over us from the stream of people that had been passing by. “Do you need help?” he asked.
“Yes!” was my emphatic answer. “We need to get her into the shade.”
He grabbed her and was somehow able to part the sea of people to get her to a patch of shade at a street corner where the press of people wasn’t so intense. He knew that she had likely had heat stroke but he must have followed the same train of thought I had about the seizure. She had started to become conscious again when he was carrying her.
“When did you last eat?” he asked her.
She made a comment that it had been in the morning, but it was already close to 4pm.
Since she was conscious, the urgency to call a paramedic left but I wanted to get her some juice since the water she was starting to sip on wouldn’t help if she’d had a hypo-glycemic event.
Right at the same corner was a 7/11. I walked into the store thinking I would grab some orange juice. I was completely dismayed at the giant line I saw inside the store snaking up and down the aisle. I grabbed two Powerades and made my way to the back of the store to stand in line. When I realized that it would take me anywhere from 30-45 minutes to get through the line, I realized I had the choice to kick up a fuss to get to the front of the line or leave the store. So I left the store with the two Powerades in my hand. It was the first time I had ever shoplifted.
The guardian angel man had already left by the time I had returned and both women were talking. My friend had given her a parade-tossed dum-dum to help with the blood sugar while I had been gone. Then one of the bottles was consumed nearly completely with no vomitting (heat stroke symptom) nor any sign of a convulsion coming back. I offered to give her a ride wherever she needed to go, but she insisted on handling it herself. I took a moment to wonder if I was guilty of being just as stubborn.
We let her go and my friend and I were walking the long hike up the hills back to the car, stopping for occasional breaks. “We saved her life,” she said.
“We saved her life by shoplifting!” I giggled.
I realized that when push comes to shove, the right kind of people will step up. My friend had been through the gauntlet with her cancer, working through various forms of treatment, allergies, weight loss, hair loss, and had even lost the ability to play the music she loved for a short time. If anyone had the right to refuse to help anyone, she did. But she was the first one to fling herself behind the girl as she seized, cradling her on her lap.
The vision of her elegant, flowing outfit and wide brimmed black hat kept playing through my mind. She was like a soft, lacy, safety-net of control, comfort and determination. The fierce fire in her gentled to protect this near-stranger and she threw her entire being into being that protector. Seeing her that way reminded me how she was beating the hell out of her cancer.
I stopped to wonder if I had stepped through the same trials she had if I would have been able to hold myself with such grace and strength. I have never been prouder than in that moment to call her my friend.