Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Friends and Firefighters

The brotherhood between firefighters is no secret, but I am here to testify that it does exist.

Farmers are also a rather close-knit group, and I can testify to that, too. I am privileged to be a member of both communities.

And then there are my friends, my wonderful women friends who have shown me more love in the last 10 days than I ever thought possible.

During those first hectic hours after my husband staggered home from having caught his hand in the hay baler, my husband and I made several other phone calls. One was to my husband's captain and close friend, Kevin, to let him know my husband was injured and wouldn't be a the fire station the next day. Another was to my husband's cousin, Alan, who is also a firefighter. We asked him to tell my mother-in-law and be with her when she heard my husband was hurt.

Then I made calls to my brother and two of my closest friends. Since I was already not well myself, I knew I might need support to get through whatever was coming.

Support came from everywhere. We live in a farming community, and once the word was out, it seemed every firefighter in three counties knew my husband was hurt, and every farmer in Botetourt was aware there had been an accident on the farm.

Over the next hours and days, calls came. And came. And came.

Moments after the ambulance brought my husband into the emergency room, I hobbled to the desk (I am now using a cane when I walk any distance because of a problem with my right leg). They would not let me go back to my husband. "Check back in 20 minutes," the girl said.

That simply wouldn't do. Not three minutes later, I saw what I was looking for - that beautiful blue shirt with Roanoke Fire-EMS blazed across it. I urgently called the emergency responder to me, even though I didn't know him, and told him I was Chief Firebaugh's wife, and the chief had been in an accident. "Can you get me back there?" I begged.

He took my arm and ushered me through big double doors, and I was by my husband's side. Within an hour, Duane, one of my husband's firefighters on his shift, was there. Others were calling.

They came visiting after his surgery, and I had to ask the nursing staff to limit the number of people in the room, and to turn people away if they felt they must. Otherwise, I knew, the firefighters would be checking on my husband with every call to the emergency room. I asked the captain to spread the word on my husband's shift that visitation needed to be limited for a few days, until we could get him through his surgeries. He did that, and I take full responsibility for any disappointment the firemen felt for not being able to visit their chief. But he needed his rest, and he was my first priority.

Offers poured in from all corners. Firefighters volunteered to help get up hay, to help with farm chores, to mow the yard. My husband's two cousins took over the chore of cow-caretaking, looking after the beasts, helping an old one calf, making sure the water was flowing and the grass was available for their feeding pleasure. Cousin Alan checked with me daily to see what I needed.

I knew if I needed anything, all I had to do was make a phone call and a firefighter would make sure it happened. I never made that call, but it was a relief to know I could if I had to.

By Sunday morning, the morning after the accident, my husband was being lifted up in prayer by at least six church congregations, probably more. I know a lot of good energy was being directed his way.

My friends came to take care of me and to support me during this difficult time. On Sunday, I started an email update, which grew from a couple of my closest friends to more than 25 women over the next several days as folks expressed their concern and desire to help.

One of my close friends is laid up from a surgery, but she answered the phone every time I called. She let me cry and listened to the stress in my voice. She soothed me as best she could. Sometimes a friendly voice on the other end of the line is good medicine.

My friend Teresa worried over me and stepped up to help. She was a strong ally and I was and am so very grateful for her friendship. She went to the grocery store for me. She stayed with me during my husband's second surgery. She practically carried me from his room to pre-op that day as I struggled to keep up with the gurney as they wheeled him down the hall to the operating floor.

One day she drove me to the hospital, because I'd not had much sleep and she was concerned about my driving. My brother brought me home that day.

Teresa also came and helped me ready my house for my husband, and then sat me down and made me eat dinner. I lost six pounds on the "husband mashes arm in machinery" diet, not one I recommend to anybody. It is easy to forget to eat when you are sick with worry. She could see how I was struggling. She took care of me when I forgot to take care of myself.

I am grateful to my friends for recognizing that this accident didn't just happen to my husband, it happened to me, too. We've been married for 31 years - we're a team, James and I, or yin and yang, as one friend put it on Facebook. Together we are better than the sums of ourselves.

Botetourt has a population of over 30,000 people and sometimes it seems like a sprawling bedroom suburb of Roanoke. Last week I felt like it was a small town community, and I was keenly aware of how close-knit the farmers are, how strong the brotherhood of firefighters is, and how lucky I have been in the friendships I have made over time.

Family is what you make of it, and last week I learned that mine extends far and wide, with brothers in blue and sisters in farm hats. From one end of the world to the other, we are all connected, each and every one, and I cannot thank those who helped enough, in whatever small way, for assisting my husband and me through this difficult time.

This accident of my husband's has been a humbling and awesome, if heart-wrenching, experience, and a great lesson for me in the love of humanity, each for the other. Great gifts often come through tragedy, and I am honored to have been able to watch them unfold as folks have stepped up to help.

My thanks to each and every one of you.


  1. What an awful thing to have happen but thanks be to God, He puts good friends right where we need them and when we need them. My prayers go out for your husbands (and your) feeling all well and new again.

  2. oh anita, what a beautiful post...

  3. How wonderful to have such an awesome community of friends and neighbors. It is so great to see how much people care for others when they are in a time of need. I'm glad you had such an awesome support system.

  4. What a beautiful tribute to friends, family and community. Keeping both of you in my thoughts...


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