Five years ago, a man fell 25 feet out of a mango tree near my bedroom window and the sound of his body hitting the ground woke me. Followed by the kind of scream you never want to hear again. It rattled the stones in my driveway.
Stories often don’t start out good – someone draws a gun, grabs a child out of a river, crashes their car into a pole and then their whole life changes and a new story begins.
The man on the ground was crooked and moaning and trying to stand up. My boyfriend who I lived with at the time knew him.
But he couldn’t stand up, because his hip bones were no longer where they belonged and every time he tried to stand, he fell over. Three of us were with him. We kept telling him to get back down. To stay down.
I called an ambulance and the ambulance didn’t come.
I called again and they said they were with a dead woman in Hanalei (twenty minutes away), and I walked past the fence so nobody could hear me and I said for FUCK sake can you please choose this man who is still alive? And go back for the dead person later?
More than thirty minutes after this man hit the ground, the ambulance arrived, and we were still forty minutes from Wilcox hospital.
He said he wanted me to go with him in the ambulance. I had been holding his hand, talking with him. I don’t remember what I said.
The mango branch that he sawed off and knocked him out of the tree was beside us.
The ambulance driver said you can’t ride in the back while they put him on a stretcher, so I rode in the front. The hospital is forty minutes from Kilauea. I could tell by the calls to the hospital in the ambulance that his vitals weren’t good.
Halfway to Kapaa I asked why they hadn’t given him pain meds yet. He called me his angel. I didn’t feel like an angel, I felt like someone who woke up too early to a man falling out of a tree. I kept lying to him we were almost there, that everything would be alright.
When we arrived he wouldn’t let go of my hand, and from that moment on the staff let me into his room, assuming I was his wife.
What can I do to help? I asked them. I the room was total chaos.
Cut off his shorts, they said, handing me scissors, and so I did, and as I peeled them off, I yelled. He’s bleeding! More shouts and bags of blood and chaos, and that’s when his heart stopped.
They pulled out the equipment and told me to go the top of his bed and yell his name. His eyes were closed. In the middle of the chaos of the electric paddles and his chest lifting into the air, I yelled his name three times.
He had pieces of leaves and dirt on his face, and he opened his eyes, and they continued, connecting him to blood, stabilizing him.
And then his heart stopped again, only this time for longer, and the equipment again, and his chest lifting again, and me yelling his name again.
And he opened his eyes and he looked into my eyes like he had seen something.I bent over until I smelled death. Listen to me, I said his name again, loudly into his left ear. Do you want to live or are you ready to die? I felt the whole room was waiting for his answer.
He said without hesitation – I want to live.
Then tell your heart, I said, because your heart has stopped twice. Tell your heart you want to live.
His heart heard him, and I went outside, because now that he was talking with his body I felt he didn’t need me. By now the Sons of Kauai were gathering in solidarity on their bikes; I gave them the update. They were praying. His daughter came.
They prepared a helicopter to take him to Oahu, and the daughter handed me her son so she could join her father. The boy was six or seven at the time and his mother said Aunty, can you drive him to his grandma?
On the way to Anahola, a strange boy was in the backset of my car with no booster seat, and was looking at me like I had stolen him.
He wouldn’t answer any questions. Who could blame him?
Then I asked him if he ever screamed before in a car.
He shook his head no.
Do you want to try it?
He shook his head yes but didn’t speak.
Want me to scream first?
I screamed loud and long and he started to laugh, and I started to laugh and then he screamed and then we both screamed together. I thought the windows might break or my eardrums.
Turns out screaming is a kind of ice breaker.
I delivered him to his grandma and I went home, exhausted. The man who fell out of the tree survived, he was gone for a long time, with many surgeries. When he returned, months later, he wanted to take me out to dinner.
He kept calling me and calling me his angel when he left me messages. But I never went, I kept saying I would go to dinner with him, but I never did.
I’m retelling you this story today because we always wait for angels to show up, but we need to stop looking. We ARE each other’s angels. We always have each other.
In these uncertain medical times, please don’t forget you can talk to your body anytime and tell it you want to live. Words are better than vitamin C. Strengthen your immune system with words, they are free. Breathe well, eat well, tell your body what you want it to know. Gather your organs as soldiers on your battlefield.
I know this man didn’t fall out of a tree by my bedroom window by accident five years ago.
In the end he saved his own life. I just reminded him how.