To the firefighter who sang to my autistic daughter,
You have put in thousands of training hours to become a firefighter. A life saver. Everyone’s hero. You physically train so that you’re capable of saving people from situations that an untrained person could never survive. Not only are you capable of saving people from a life threatening situation; you are capable of providing invasive medical procedures under unimaginable levels of stress to keep those people alive until they arrive at the hospital.
These qualities are the reasons why every little boy wants to grow up to be a firefighter one day. They are modern day super heroes, just without the cape or glamour. Your dedication to your training and studying is what saves countless lives every day.
Last Tuesday around 8:20am, you were forced to put your skills to the test when you arrived at the horrific scene of my mangled car. I had lost control, ran off the road, over corrected and crossed two lanes of traffic.
The last thing I remember was thinking, “Oh shit. I’m about to wreck,”
before hitting a huge tree going about 60 mph. They told me I hit 4 trees and a mailbox, but my memory gets hazy right before I ran off the road.
And the next thing I remember is some man standing beside my open door, holding something against my head and telling me I’m okay. Things get a little fuzzy again and then I remember paramedics sliding me out of my car and onto a backboard.
I had a deep gash, about 2.5 inches long across the back of my head and blood seemed to just be pouring out of it. My entire right hand was ripped to shreds, and every inch of my body felt a type of pain that no human being should ever have to endure. But none of that mattered. All I cared about was my baby girl who was sitting in the back seat. I heard her crying so I knew she was alive, but that’s all I knew.
All of you were asking me tons of questions, sticking IVs in my arms, cutting off my clothes, and trying to control all the bleeding. But all I could think about was Raelyn. I kept repeating over and over “She’s autistic. She can’t talk. She can’t show you where she hurts. She’s gonna be so scared. Please get my husband or my mom here so they can hold her. Please just get someone here.”
We had to get to the hospital so we couldn’t wait around for someone to get there. My sweet baby was terrified, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. She was being held by you, a complete stranger, while her mommy was covered in blood, strapped down to a backboard.
You know that sinking feeling you sometimes get in your gut?
Well every time I heard her cry the way she only cries when she’s terrified, that feeling came rushing back. It is still too fresh to bear. You were holding her and trying everything you could to try and calm her down. Nothing was working so you asked me what calms her down. Without hesitation, I asked you,
“Will you please sing ‘Wheels On the Bus’ to her?”
So you did. For the entire 20 minute drive. And she stayed relatively calm. There were angels looking over us that day that made sure we were okay. But you were our angel in the flesh who was sent to my car accident for a reason. You didn’t use any of those skills you have acquired or medical knowledge you have learned. When I needed pain medicine, you weren’t the one pushing it into my IV. You didn’t have to intubate me to maintain an airway, but YOU are the reason I was able to keep breathing. Knowing my child was safe and not in pain allowed me to take another breath.
Every minute that went by without hearing her cry was another minute I was relatively at ease. I knew that my body would eventually heal, and the physical pain would fade. But there’s that type of pain that only a mother understands; the pain you feel when your baby is scared or hurt…that hurt me so much more than hitting that tree head on. Each time she cried, I physically couldn’t breathe. I wanted to just hold her and tell her it was okay but I couldn’t. I was strapped down to a backboard while I relied on you to comfort my kid.
Well, you did the unthinkable.
You managed to keep a mom from completely losing her shit while her daughter was terrified. As a nurse, I know that when you perform a medical procedure for the first time, you’re nervous as hell and praying your patient doesn’t sense your fear. You put on your game face and hope to hell you don’t screw up. I don’t know if you have children, but if you don’t, you damn sure fooled me that day. I had complete faith in you taking care of my baby.
You didn’t have to sing to her in the back of that ambulance. If you hadn’t, she would have been just fine. But I wouldn’t have been. People talk about PTSD after a car accident, but the sound of crushing metal and the smell of the air bags after they’ve deployed are not what keeps me up at night. The thought of how scared she must have been the moment she realized we were about to wreck is what haunts me. Aside from not wrecking, there’s nothing I could have done to comfort her during the scariest moment of her life. But once you got there, you made it your mission to make her (and me) believe that everything was okay.
The fact that I didn’t have to hear my terrified daughter cry the entire way to the hospital is the only thing that has kept my sanity intact.
I know you probably just wanted to do whatever you could to just make her be quiet. Those moments of hearing nothing but your, um, original rendition of “Wheels On the Bus” were my saving grace. Because if I didn’t hear her crying, I knew she was okay. I knew if she was okay, then I would be fine.
So thank you for doing so much more than what you’re trained to do. Thank you for giving me those brief moments of hope while she was content and quiet. By keeping her calm, you kept me sane (relatively). You made the most traumatic experience of my life sting a little bit less. Our car wreck was just another day on the job for you, but you left a lasting impression on me and I will never forget what you did for us that day.
Your biggest fans,
Summer and Raelyn
WSB made a video of our story here
Fox 5 Atlanta covered the story here
Follow our journey on Facebook: Autism Through Raelyn’s Eyes