Listening to the Spirit…in the back of an ambulance

For the last few days I’ve wrestled with whether or not I should share this, and finally came to the conclusion that I should—I think.  While at work the other day, I had the opportunity to take care of a remarkable young man.  The young man, sixteen years old, had been downhill skiing and had run into a tree.  He suffered debilitating and painful injuries to his lower extremities.  I won’t go into detail about the extent of his injuries—it’s not relevant to the story.  Suffice it to say that his pain was very real and very extreme.  His pain was ‘managed’ with some powerful pain and sedating medications.  I brought him to a rural hospital, where his injuries were further assessed and found to be in need of surgical correction, a service not available at the small hospital.  It was then my privilege to again transport the young man, this time with his mother present, to a different hospital.

While making our way to the other hospital, the road was bumpy and the young man’s legs were now more painful than ever; he winced in pain—silently praying for mercy.  Each bump in the road jostled his injured legs, causing more and more pain with each passing mile.  My heart ached for the boy’s mother, who watched as her son lay in this state of suffering, undoubtedly feeling helpless as the boy struggled to breath over the unbearable pain.

As a critical care paramedic, I pride myself on my ability to administer a wide variety of powerful pain medications and sedative type drugs.  Our protocols are generally very liberal and to many in healthcare, the prehospital use of narcotics is considered somewhat radical—we strongly dislike seeing our patients in pain.  It pains my heart to see a patient in such a state.  Words cannot describe the frustration I feel when pain management is not working like I’d expected it to.  At the point where it appeared that the young man simply couldn’t take it any longer, he asked simply and calmly, “will you pray with me?”  Immediately I had the distinct impression to offer the young man a priesthood blessing—to which he graciously accepted.  I instinctively reached for my small vial of concentrated oil (something that I keep in my work bag), and dabbed a small drop on the crown of the boy’s head.  I gently laid my hands on his head, taking a brief second to gather my thoughts.  Suddenly the whole world seemed a little smaller.  The chains of everyday life seemed to be loosed.  The stressful burdens of work, family and church commitments seemed hardly noticeable.  It was just me, this young man, his mother, and the unrestrained spirit of God in the cramped compartment of an ambulance.  I could feel the loving arms of the Savior wrapped around each one of us—the spirit was so strong.  The words of the blessing, yet unremarkable, flowed with little effort of my own—they were just there.  As I concluded the short prayer, I felt a small tear run down the side of his face and hit my hand.  Then, with little effort, I put my proverbial paramedic hat back on and continued on with his treatment.  In the next few moments, the pain medication had reached its full effect, and the boy slipped into a peaceful sleep.  The rest of the trip was very plain.  I made conversation with the patient’s mother, who was more than pleasant.

After dropping the boy off at the hospital, and making the pilgrimage back to the town where I was working that day, the experience seemed to be at the forefront of my mind.  More and more I felt as though I should reach out to this boy and his mother, but I didn’t really know why.  That night I pushed away the feeling and tried to get some sleep.  Morning came, and the thought was still there.  After my church meetings, and wrestling with the thought that I needed to speak with these folks, I decided to drop by the young man’s room while I was at the hospital picking up some equipment.  I found the young man in good spirits, having just undergone surgery that morning.  His pain was manageable and he had the good company of this father and sister.  The spirit that this family carried with them was nothing short of inspiring.  I wish I could describe it better; they are an amazing example of what it means to carry the spirit of the Lord with you always.  Sadly, the boy’s mother was not there.  As I walked out, I still felt something tugging at me.  As the rest of the day passed, the thought never really left my mind.  “Call her,” the spirit prompted me.

The next day, I again awoke to the distinct and now even more powerful impression to call the patients mother.  ‘She’ll think I’m crazy/weird/creepy if I just call her randomly,’ I thought to myself.  After all, I didn’t even really know what I was supposed to say to her.  I looked up her telephone number and started to dial, but then chickened out.  The impression was eating at me all day, until mid-afternoon, I finally called.

My words were choppy, and I think the poor woman could hardly understand me.  I muttered through telling her who I was, and then said the only thing I could think of to say was, “thank you.”  As the words rolled off of my tongue, I began to realize just how thankful I was.  I was privileged to be the instrument of the Lord in one of his children’s darkest days.  I’d had my prayers answered—the one that I pray every day, pleading with the Lord for opportunities to use his priesthood.  I was able to offer some, albeit very small, bit of relief to another human being in pain and suffering.  The patient’s mother was more than kind to me, saying over and over how grateful they are for the kindness shown their son.

Several minutes after the phone call had ended, the woman called back.  There was a distinct sense of love and concern in the tone of her voice.  Though it was just a phone call, I could easily perceive she was holding back sack loads of tears and emotion.  As this woman shared with me a distinct and vivid spiritual impression she received while I had the privilege of blessing her son, I realized just how special of an experience it was for all three of us.  My eyes welled with tears as she shared this most spiritual and intimate experience.  I was at a complete loss of words; I truly didn’t know what to say. Thank you.  Thank you was all I could say.

There are some experiences in life that are just too sacred to share, and because it wasn’t my experience, I won’t share the details of this sister’s story.  This young man, whom I shouldn’t call ‘young,’ was a man in every sense of the word.  This man, when others would have been screaming profanities and cursing the Lord for this trial, chose to speak of his testimony of the Book of Mormon, his love of seminary and his plans to serve as a missionary.  What an example he was to me.  My testimony of the Lords holy priesthood was strengthened beyond measure today.  I’ve learned a little more about what it means to listen to the voice of the Lord and my heart has been filled with an added measure of love for the Lords gospel.  Indeed, this has been one of the more tender moments of my short 28 years.

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3 Comments on “Listening to the Spirit…in the back of an ambulance

  1. What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing your story and for being worthy to give priesthood blessings. Keep on keeping on.

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