By: Holly Huang, Red Cross volunteer
One of my favorite events as an avid Red Cross volunteer is Sound the Alarm. Save a Life.
I remember visiting one house that broke my heart. This home belonged to a loving Mexican family. A couple in their 60s greeted us with warm welcomes as we walked into the house, a drill and a 4-ft. ladder under our arms.
It was a freshly painted house full of life: Two little kids were playing on the side; the mom was crocheting, and the dad was wrapping up with painting the house.
As my team member was educating the family on fire safety, I proceeded to install a total of four fire alarms in their three bedrooms and as well as a hallway. The fourth bedroom, across from the kitchen and separated from the rest of the rooms, was closed, so I decided not to install an alarm there.
However, the dad quickly walked to the room and opened the door, gesturing for me to go in. When I walked in, I saw a young man in his late 20s lying in a hospital bed. I cautiously installed the fire alarm by the door frame. When I tested the alarm, I covered the alarm speaker with my palm to dampen the beeps, trying my best not to disturb him.
After I installed the alarm, the dad signaled for me to come over to the hospital bed. With a heavy Spanish accent and lots of love, he told me the whole story. The bedridden young man is his son; he’s in a coma after a terrible motorcycle accident 3 years ago. Above the bed was a picture of the son and his family (wife and two little children) taken just one month before the accident. He graduated from the University of California, San Diego and had just completed medical school.
Now, he cannot talk, walk or respond to conversations, but he could respond to his dad’s gentle touches and tickles by twitching his head. He had tubes attached to his stomach, and his parents had to feed him through the tubes. They had been doing this for the past 3 years. The whole time the dad spoke to me about his son, a smile graced his face, though his eyes were imbued with sorrow. He stroked his son’s hair with his fingers and wiped his face with a white towel, gently.
The dad locked his eyes with mine and told me the dangers of motorcycles and I should never get one. I was touched that he had concern for me even though we were strangers and he was the one who had to endure all the difficulties. With a smile on her face, the mom told me to enjoy my life with my loved ones. She asked me to spend more time with my family after learning that I was living on campus by myself in college.
It breaks my heart to think about how such a terrible thing can happen to such loving people. Walking out of the house, thoughts and questions were racing in my head. It must have been an emotional roller coaster for this family to bear the tragic news. The young man was surrounded by love, and I hope that the one simple fire alarm I installed can add some more safety to his life.
I called my parents right after the event to tell them how much I love them.