Believing in the Kindness of Strangers
My oldest brother, James, came to live with our family in the Summer of 2008 when we learned he was terminally ill, after he survived a terrible fall in his home. It was through the kindness of strangers his life was spared, and during the next two years, learned a great deal as his caregiver. Jim passed away June 2010, and over the last two years of his life, I came to appreciate many things in life. This is how my journey began, believing in the kindness of strangers…
I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t reach my eldest brother, Jim, by telephone. At first, I thought he might be out with friends or shopping. As the day went on and my calls went unanswered, I became worried. I contacted the police in Lenexa, Kansas, and requested a welfare check at his home. This began a chain of events involving complete strangers trying to save my brother’s life. From this experience, my life changed by having faith in the kindness of strangers.
An officer called me after he found my brother lying on the floor. Jim had been on the floor eighteen hours and had gone without food, water, or medications. I knew the situation was critical. He had been immobile for many hours and his kidneys would have begun to shut down, leading to kidney failure. I thanked the officer for his help and when I asked if an ambulance was on the way. “Your brother declined medical attention. I cannot force him to go to the hospital. He’s lying on his bed and will call as soon as possible. I’m on my way back to the station,” he matter-of-factly replied.
Jim never called back. He was 500 miles away and needed medical attention. How was I going to get help to him? I didn’t know any of his friends; I only knew they were ham radio operators. One of them, Warden, lived in a nearby town. I thought our brother, Greg, who was also a ham radio operator, might have his phone number. He did! I called Warden and left this message on his voice mail:
“Hello Warden. This is Jim’s sister, Annie, from Minnesota. I was unable to reach him and sent the Lenexa police to his home. They found him on the floor. He’s alive, but he was on the floor for over 18 hours and refuses to go to the hospital. I don’t know what to do. Please call me back as soon as you get this message.” Thirty minutes later, he called from his cell phone. “I just got your message. I’m on my way over to Jim’s. I’ll call you as soon as I can.” This man, a complete stranger to me, held my brother’s life in his hands.
Warden phoned an hour later and was very concerned. The situation was serious. I needed to get there as soon as possible. He had arranged for several ham radio operators to stay with him until I arrived. As my brother and I drove to Kansas, Warden called my cell phone with regular updates. Once we arrived, it took a few hours to persuade Jim to go to the hospital. After he suffered another fall, we called an ambulance, and after more persuading, they whisked him away and when he arrived to the emergency room was admitted in critical condition. He was hours away from developing permanent kidney damage.
I believe the kindness of strangers changed my life. After a long hospitalization and rehabilitation, Jim moved into our home. Warden and his wife have become dear friends. One of my most important experiences that has touched my life… I will never forget… how having faith in the kindness of this one time stranger, saved my brother’s life.