True CERT Stories

It was a wild morning in Denver.  My Scottish terrier and I were up at 6 AM, had breakfast, and glanced at the paper and at 7:00 AM I was upstairs in my den, checking email messages on the computer.  The doorbell rang.  Strange, I thought, being so early in the morning.

I rushed down stairs, opened the door to see my next door neighbor, barely able to stand, and white as a sheet.  (He had some surgery ten days ago, and was in recovery.)  My neighbor said his cell phone had crapped out, and he had been up since midnight, with a need to vomit and was weak.  He was having a hard time breathing, and said his temperature was 95 .

I ushered my neighbor back through his front door, checked his vital signs as best I could, made sure his airway was clear, and rushed back next door to my home and dialed 911.  The operator answered quickly and I gave her the details of what I knew.  I then went back to my neighbor, leaving the front door open to listen.  My neighbor seemed to be stabilized and I assured him that I was there for him.

I glanced at my watch, and sure enough, three minutes later, in the distance I heard the siren sound of a Denver Fire Department truck, from the nearest station, rolling.

The DFD station is only a little over a mile from our homes.  Less than a minute later I heard the huge diesel engine shut down and the hiss of the air brakes.  The fire truck was there, lit up like a wonderful Christmas Tree, as three firemen and the driver came running up the front walkway to where I was standing waving my arms.

They attended to my neighbor and about five minutes later the ambulance arrived.  Now there were six trained professionals surrounding my neighbor, and I noticed that both DFD and the EMTs had “defibs” – heart shockers.

As they rolled my neighbor out to the street on the gurney, I placed my hand on his shoulder, assuring him that another neighbor and fellow cat lover had already arrived to take care of his beloved cat and that all was going to be just fine.  As they rolled my neighbor out to the street, I mentioned to the DFD lieutenant that I was glad I had taken my refresher class at CERT, and he smiled, turned to look at me and said “Right on, Bro.”

It’s been a dozen or more years since I have had a shot of adrenaline like I had this morning and too many times in my life, and now in my neighbor’s life.

As I saw the fire truck and the ambulance pull away, I said a silent prayer of thanks to Almighty God, and my superb CERT class, for reminding me of what it means to be an emergency first responder, first on the scene.  Act quickly and with mental discipline and do not emotionally identify with your subject.  I did, and I acted fast, and effectively I think.  (The neighbor lady was standing outside, emotionally affected and almost paralyzed with grief and concern.)

As I heard the sound of the ambulance siren in the distance, I knew the ambulance was “lit up” and I murmured a silent prayer for my neighbor.

I am glad and blessed that the professionals were so close and that I was needed to play only a tiny part in helping my neighbor.  That’s what neighbors are supposed to be.  My neighbor is my “brother”.


My neighbor called me last night from the hospital to tell me how he was doing and to thank me for being there for him and that most likely he thought he would be home in the afternoon.  Doctors think it might have been an “over-the-top” allergic reaction to the drugs that he was given to reduce his pain and discomfort after his surgery, which can be very serious and even life threatening.

He continued to thank me and I got a little embarrassed, so I injected a little humor to lighten things up.

I said, “I am delighted to know you’re going to be fine and returning home.  After all, I hate breaking in a new next door neighbor since I am very pleased with the one I have now.”

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