The Guilt of Hesitation

Christmas day 1992 was a day I will never forget. It started out pretty normal. Little did I know, in a few hours, I would learn about facing my fears and I would see more human blood than I ever had in my young life. We opened presents at home and then went to my Grandma’s in Sardis, OH to open presents and have Christmas dinner. At around 2pm a storm moved in and the snow started coming down. My Great Grandma Mary decide she needed to leave right away to make it home to Sistersville, WV. An hour and a half went by and we hadn’t heard from Grandma Mary. The snow had been coming down hard the entire time and she wasn’t answering her phone. My Dad, Uncle and Grandpa decided to go look for her. They loaded some chains in the truck, in case she slide off the road, and headed out into the storm.

A few minutes after they left my Mom happened to look out the front window and noticed a woman and two children walking down the road, in the blowing snow, toward the house. This was odd considering the nearest house was a half mile away and the severe weather. My Grandma Mary Linda along with my brother and I came to look. Something was wrong about this. My Mom opened the front door and by then we could see the woman’s face was covered in blood. We went out and got the three of them inside. My Mom and Grandma went to work right away getting towels to stop the bleeding and blankets to wrap our shivering visitors. The woman had a huge gash on the top and side of her head running front to back. She was bleeding and was dizzy but, still in a panic. Her daughter, of maybe 10, wasn’t bleeding but, appeared stunned and said her head hurt. She had a perfectly round white spot on her head that looked like her hair and some of her scalp had been sheared off by an impact, but there was no blood. The little boy, maybe 6 or 7, was holding his hand close to his body and had blood all down the front of him. He was crying and said his hand hurt. I asked him several times to show me his hand before he finally turned his palm out so, I could see the injury. His middle and ring finger looked like someone had taken a knife right down the center of them longways and split them down to the bone. I pressed a towel over his fingers and tried to calm him down.

From the time we first opened the door, the woman kept saying her husband was still in the car. My Mom and I looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. He’s dead or pinned in that car. She said they slid off the road and went over the hill out by our barn, which was a good 300 yards down the road. The hill there was steep and covered in brush. I knew what I had to do but, I didn’t want to face it. I busied myself with putting pressure on wounds and calming the woman and her little boy down so, I wouldn’t have go out to that car. I just imagined him smashed and impaled, screaming and groaning for my help and me being there alone and unable to save him. The woman was persistent about us helping her husband, even though she was getting groggy from the loss of blood and coming down from the adrenaline. My Mom said she would go and started to get her shoes on. I stopped her and told her I would go but, I must not have been convincing. She tried to argue but, I put my boots and coat on and started out the door. I felt dread. I knew he was a bloody pile of hamburger, either dead or dying. I thought about going to the garage to get some rope in case I needed it to get down the hill to the car. I went through about 10 other ideas to put off what I had to do but, my feet kept walking toward the car. As I was walking my mind was elsewhere but, somehow I noticed a dark spot moving through the blowing snow out ahead of me. As I looked closer, I couldn’t believe it! It was the guy! He was supposed to be hamburger but, there he was. The relief washed over me as I realized I wouldn’t have to climb half way down a snow covered cliff to find a mutilated body! He was bleeding from a head wound as well. He had gone back after his wife’s purse! I wished she had said something about him being conscious and trotting back to get her purse!

We got everyone stabilized as best we could. The ambulance took over an hour to get to the house because of the road conditions. We spent most of that time keep our injured guests conscious. The three with head injuries kept wanting to go to sleep. They all pulled through as did my Great Grandma Mary who hadn’t called yet because she had to drive so slow. My Dad, Uncle and Grandpa had driven all the way to her house looking for her in the ditch before coming home.

I was 13 years old when this happened and looking back, I guess I did ok under the circumstances. I had stayed calm but, I felt guilty for many years after this incident. I thought about it over and over in my mind. What if the guy had died because of my hesitation? Because of my irrational fear? I didn’t have a problem with the sight of blood. I had been hunting for several years and had gutted and cleaned deer. I had seen every bloody war movie known to man. I wouldn’t have been in any physical danger. It was all in my mind! Looking back I realized part of my fear was from a lack of medical knowledge about how to help. I worked on correcting that but, that wasn’t enough. What if that had been someone I loved? Would I hesitate because of my fear then? This seemingly minor incident had a massive influence on my life. It created a strong commitment in me to face my fears because, the consequences of not being prepared to face them could mean the death of someone I loved.

For those of you who are protectors, I hope you’ll reflect on your own fears and make a commitment, now, before you have to face them, that you will constantly practice facing your fears without hesitation. Make it a habit. Look for every opportunity to challenge yourself and face your fears and limiting beliefs. Remember there are far worse consequences to hesitation than what I dealt with in this situation. This is what Warriors do. Be prepared.