Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pay It Forward

I believe that our lives are made up of many experiences, unique to each of us, that define and make up who we are. Some are big and some are small, but all have the ability to change us and make us better people. As most people reading this already know, just one day shy of today, one year ago, I was involved in a pretty scary car accident resulting in our car spinning and eventually rolling over and eventually landing in a ditch out in the middle of one of Utah's canyons. Despite the statistics of the other car accidents along that same stretch of road that same evening (a deer migration of some sort seemed to be the universal cause), our lives were spared and we left that night mostly uninjured. I have often reflected upon this large experience with extreme gratitude that things turned out okay. I find myself replaying the events of that night that I remember and the ones that have been told to me. I am so grateful for all the helping hands that were there that Spring evening. I was later told that the first people to stop and help us after our car came to a jolting stop was an off duty police officer and off duty EMT. I never quite understood how I was so lucky to receive this small but important help. To this day, I still do not know who those men (or women) were, nor the paramedics, firemen, or hospital staff that were a part of my life that evening. I do not even know what their faces look like. But what mattered most at that time was the compassion and comfort I received from each of them. It is a memory I will never forget. What I do know is that I have hoped in some way I would be able to pay these individuals, and in a sense hero's, back one day. This has proved difficult in regards to those first arriving upon the scene. Now a year later, I have finally figured it out.

Our walk to the hospital each clinical morning is about a ten minute walk. We pass our staple, the 7-11, weave around the stopped mopeds awaiting their green traffic light, then make our way across a four lane bridge. We stand as speck as we cross that bridge with all the cars, mopeds, and frequent ambulances that are continually on it. The solid concrete bridge drops you off about two blocks shy of Chi Mei hospital. As you walk down the steps of the bridge, it is important to watch where you are going because it is apparent that the other vehicles do not (a common occurrence in Taiwan). For three weeks now I have tried to learn by observation the rules of the road, but have only come to the conclusion that there are none! This is exatly how it is under the close quarters of the bridge.

This past Wednesday, my clinical partner, Haley, and I had set off for the hospital, after making my routine pit stop at the "sev" (aka 7-11). It wasn't long before we were up and over the bridge. We were about two steps shy from reaching the bottom when all of a sudden two mopeds had a head on collision, both going close to full speed. The one driver, who was wearing a helmet fell from his bike, landing on the ground shattering his glasses. His pain was apparent and he had the cuts and scrapes to prove it. The other guy was not quite as lucky. This young man was not wearing a helmet and flew off his bike, smacking his face and head against the cement stairs, and ricocheting off. He landed on the ground and was knocked out cold. Before we even realized what had happened only ten feet from us in a matter of seconds, but felt as if it had been minutes, Haley and I were at those two boys sides. We did exactly what we have always been taught to do and we had the adrenaline to do it. The language barrier made for a difficult situation, especially as the young man who I was now holding C-spine (spinal immobilization for those of you who I have already lost) on, began to wake up from his loss of consciousness and became slightly combative because he was so confused. Fortunately, there were some people nearby to help translate. The whole ordeal took a while, but eventually everything turned out okay. More of my classmates showed up a few minutes after we did, as they were still crossing the bridge at the time of accident. And so it was, about eight BYU nursing students and two Taiwanese EMT's helped these two boys get to the hospital. We found out later that day that both boys were going to be okay. The young man who was without a helmet sustained facial fractures, a closed head injury, and what I consider to be very lucky.

The whole situation seemed very surreal and Haley and I thought a lot about it. It is amazing to me how we are often placed at the right time in the right situation. I was grateful I was able to help that day. In the end, as I reflected on this experience and the one that I experienced a year ago, I learned that it was not necessarily about going back and finding those people who helped me in my time of need just to thank them; to me, it was more about paying it forward to someone else. I was able to provide the same comfort and care to a complete stranger who was probably just as scared as I was after my crash. To me, this concept of paying it forward was more real than it had ever been before. And the best part about it is, is that you walk away from it with nothing in return because that's not what matters. What matters most is what you do to help and what you will do for people in the future.

I want you all to look at this young man's right hand and what my friend is doing. If this doesn't sum up what nursing is all about, then I don't know what does. Often times this simple gesture means more to a patient than anything else, at least that was how I felt when I was lying in this young man's position. The medical part of nursing is just one aspect, while another is the non-judgmental compassion, which is equally as important.

I leave you all with one of my favorite quotes (I have many)- "What greater wisdom can you find than kindness." I absolutely love nursing and the kindness that is behind all that we do.


  1. You never cease to amaze me Chels. Your selfless service in the medical field, church, and life in general will touch the lives of many. Let's be serious though, 15 pictures a day is not enough. I expect at least 50/day.

  2. Hi chelsea !!

    I have been reading your blogspot and had to get a gmail account to post this! What an amazing time you're having and what an amazing nurse you're going to be!!! I can't wait to work with you!!
    And if you change your profession, you would make a great journalist!!

    Be safe and have a fun time!!!

    Proud of you,

    Terri Gottenbos

  3. Chelsea -

    You not only get nursing, you get what life is about! Taiwan has added so much more to your adventures and to your global view of people, their culture, and values in life. Your postings have been great!