Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mrs. Jean Belz Story 2

Mrs. Jean Belz helped to plant 5? 12? evergreen trees when she was 84? 85? years old. I was at her house on the tree planting afternoon. She asked me to help her into bed saying she didn't feel "quite right." While this was much more common in the last 5 years, it was not at all a common occurrence then. I helped her to her room, then she asked me to call her daughter in law, MaryAnna. I called, but Mary Anna was off campus. She would be back in 1/2 an hour. I sat on the other bed, stared at Mrs. Belz and thought about how bad I am at handling medical situations. She asked me again when Mary Anna would be back. That question filtered through some medically alert section of my brain and became, "Can you call 911?"

I went in another room in case her well known frugality extended to ambulance calls as well. Perhaps I also didn't want her to know that I didn't know what I was doing, that MaryAnna coming home in 28 minutes seemed like forever. The call felt like it was more for me than for her at this point.

The dispatcher asked me what the problem was and then asked, "How old is she?"
"She's in her 80's," I said.
"Ohhhhhhh. Well, we'll be there as soon as we can."
Now another section of my brain whipped into high gear translation. It became clear to me that this dispatcher had no idea that we were talking about a dorm parent, a Latin teacher, the Manners Teacher for Wayward Teens and International Students, the founder of a school and the calmer of not just students but staff as well. Like me.

"You have to come now," I told him. "I need this woman here. It doesn't matter how old she is. She is really, really important."

"Of course," he says, we'll be there as soon as we can."
"How soon?"
"We can be there in 15 minutes."

I hung up. I looked at my watch. I looked at Mrs. Belz. I called 911 again. It had been 3 1/2 minutes.

"I just called."
"We know."
"You need to come."
"We are."
"Yes, but you're not fast enough."
"We're coming as fast as we can."
"I know. Come faster."
"Mam......" (cue slightly patronizing tone.....)

The ambulance came. I felt sheepish/apologetic/awkward and entirely relieved. What if she had been just tired? Maybe it had been no big deal. Now her insurance would probably skyrocket all because I called an ambulance for her fatigue and my panicky incompetence.

She'd had a heart attack.
She lived for another 7 years.
She died after having a massive stroke.
As many as 500 people gathered yesterday for her funeral.

Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Ps. 84:5


  1. this was beautiful, Marty, thanks so much for all you did, and your wonderful way of writing! it's a treasure!
    jenny belz gienapp

  2. Ahhhh, why am I only just now reading this? Thanks for writing such a vivid picture, Marti. I can see/hear it clear as day! After her first heart attack I asked the Lord that my new baby Julie could know her... Julie turned 23 this week! God is so kind.