The scene is surreal and I’m doing my best to keep my composure. The moment I hear that my daughter was taken by a stranger is when full blown panic seems a most appropriate response. Indeed it surges momentarily within me, then a calm assurance envelopes me, with a confidence that she is safe.
This is not normal, I conclude. It must be divine. Not a few times have I sensed God’s perfect peace that passes understanding infuse me. This, again, is one of those times.
“Go find your sister,” I say to the son nearest me. Then I turn my attention back to Mike, who is still convulsing.
I am caught in an oxymoron of time: everything is happening so fast in slow motion. Why is he still seizing? He was perfectly healthy five minutes ago. Why is he having a seizure in the first place? I ask for someone to please call a doctor. Someone calls the Cruz Roja (Red Cross). His convulsions stop, but he remains unconscious.
A woman kneels down next to me and grabs Mike’s hand. She holds a syringe, filled with a clear liquid, and attempts to find a vein. I ask her what she is doing; I can’t understand her reply. Then a curious thing happens. Though unconscious and still unable to hear me calling him, Mike is somehow aware of the pain from the attempted needle jabs in his hand, moans “ow-w,” and pulls his hand away. I will find out later that he was never cognizant of that fact and will have no memory of it happening. I ask her if she is a doctor, or a nurse. She says no, but attempts to defend her actions anyway. I pull Mike’s hand away from her and tell her we don’t need her help. Screwballs, even well-intentioned ones, are not welcome at a time like this.
In the meantime, someone runs to the pharmaceutical section of the store, grabs packages of gauze off the shelf and returns. Ripping them open, he kneels down, picks Mike’s head up from the bloody, dirty floor, and presses the gauze on the wound.
The Cruz Roja arrives, bringing in a stretcher. Let me rephrase that: the driver of a white van with a red cross painted on its side, arrives, alone, with a stretcher. Where is the medical box filled with first aid materials? There should be two paramedics at least, no? Is this how an emergency plays out in a third world country?
With the help of two male bystanders, he picks Mike off the floor and scoots him onto the stretcher, clumsily. Then he is having difficulty extending the stretcher to full height, jostling my husband. I reach out, as do the others, to keep Mike from falling off, since there are no straps to hold him securely in place. I blame my disappointment of this entire scene on television, where these sort of things happen in flawless synchronization.
Meanwhile, I receive the news that Joey, our second son, has found Katie and is with her. If any comic relief can be found in this story, this is it: Katie is now seated at a food counter on the other side of the store eating gorditas.
We will never discover who the lady was that ‘took’ her, though Katie will later tell us that she remembers standing, crying at the sight of her daddy on the floor, when an older woman reaches down to take her hand, gently leading her away from the incident to stroll through the store. An abuela. Perhaps an angel? Whether real or pragmatically so, yes, an angel sent from God.
Mike is ready to be wheeled out to the…ambulance. I’m not sure where they are taking him, as I’ve never been to a hospital in that city. I know with certainty I must not leave him alone. I am torn, however, for going with him means leaving my kids at the store. Stranded. In shock. Thirty miles from home.
What I want to do is stop this crazy world from spinning, hug my kids, and have a good cry. But that must wait. I climb into the ambulance. The crisis is far from over.
to be continued…
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