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Overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers

Have you ever found yourself injured on a bike trail, unable to go for help, away from home where you knew no one, and you had no phone service? That happened to Julia and I a few weeks ago. We were in Jim Thorpe PA riding our tandem bicycle on a rail to trail. It was a beautiful warm sunny fall day and the leaves on the trees along the Lehigh River were spectacular. Unexpectedly we hit a patch of soft sand on the trail and went down. We were bruised, and bleeding and Julia’s back really hurt and there was no cell phone service to call for help. A couple bicyclers came along and immediately offered to ride out until they had phone service and call for an ambulance. Not only did they do that, but they rode back to us to assure us help was coming. Then they rode to the trail entrance to direct the ambulance to us. The kindness of strangers. While we were waiting for the ambulance, many more bicyclers came along offering help, first aid, water, whatever they could. More kindness from strangers, it was a bit overwhelming.

Except for one that I will never forget. His image remains etched in my mind. Julia was lying on the side of the trail, I was by her side trying to make her comfortable. Several bicyclers were gathered around us when a man in a fancy red outfit came flying down the trail yelling at people to “get out of the way. You're not supposed to stop on the trail.” I doubt he even noticed what was actually going on. I will never forget the contrast of the people trying to help vs the man in red. The unkindness of one stranger. May I never be like him.

After X-rays and a MIR, at St Luke’s Hospital in Lehighton, it was determined that Julia had a compression fracture in her back. Doug, the ER nurse that evening was amazing! He did his best to make Julia comfortable and forget the pain by telling jokes etc. Julia was admitted to stay overnight which ended up being three days. We had rented a RV for this vacation, so I asked Doug if I could camp in the hospital parking lot which he said would be no problem. I also asked when visiting hours started the next day and he said 7 am. When Doug got off work at 11 pm, he came by the RV to tell me visiting hours started at 9 am instead of 7 am because of COVID19. He also told me of a couple of restaurants where I could get breakfast in the morning. More kindness from strangers.

Julia’s nurses were also the best. They were so kind and helpful. Many would come by to say Hi and to see how she was doing even though Julia was not in their section. It seemed like Julia was one of their favorite patients. Of course it's not hard to love Julia! More kindness from strangers.

The morning of the third day, I found a note under the windshield wiper of the RV. Doug, the ER nurse noticed I was still there and invited me to their home for dinner that evening. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers! Julia was discharged that day so we headed home instead. Two nurses brought Julia to the RV and broke some rules by coming into RV to help me get Julia in the RV bed. More kindness from strangers.

Once home family and friends continued to help us, bringing us meals etc. This time, kindness from friends and family!

It’s been three weeks since the accident and Julia is getting better everyday. A visit to the Orthopedic doc today confirms it will be several more weeks of recovery. A back brace and Tylenol are her current crutches. Physical Therapey will be next to get her strength back. Doc also said she will likely be a quarter inch shorter.

I believe this world is filled with mostly good kind people. No one asked if we were democrats or republicans. No one asked if we were maskers or non maskers. People just wanted to help.

If you happen to ride the Jim Thorpe rail to trail, be careful. Several bicyclers that came along said we were not the first to go down. They called this section of the trail the sand traps. Another lady said she was on the DNR board and she would make sure the trail got fixed. Let's hope so!

20th Nov 2020 Terry Swartz

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