Severely injured and desperate, my wife Anne cried out for help. In the dark of night she had just fallen and landed on her head on the Sofitel Hotel grounds in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The only one who heard her was Afonso Hernandez, on a break from his kitchen work. He helped her back into the hotel by supporting her arm as she slowly moved in small steps.
A torrent of blood flowed down Anne’s head soaking her clothing and as she got inside the hotel spilling on to the carpet.
At that moment walking by was a well dressed woman who saw this horrific sight. She quickly got the facts and directed the hotel staff to get ice and a chair and call 911.
She placed Anne on an angle on the chair and this woman used her own body to stabilize Anne’s neck and body and used the ice to reduce the bleeding.
This Angel of Mercy didn’t worry about getting Anne’s blood on her clothing and on her hands and forearms, which is what happened, nor did she worry about her legal exposure.
Meanwhile, in our hotel room I got a call no-one ever wants to receive. It was from a desk clerk who screamed, “Your wife is bleeding!” With my heart racing, I asked, “What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “Where is she,” I asked. “Outside the ballroom,” he replied. I hung up the phone, hustled to an elevator and jogged over there.
Across the open area outside the ballroom was Anne and a frantic scene all around her as hotel employees and patrons had gathered to see what was going on. A chill riveted down my spine as I saw this nightmare unfold.
“What happened,” I asked Anne, my heart aching as I saw her in such pain and the blood running all over her. “I don’t know,” she replied in a burst of tears. “I fell on my head.”
Trying to comfort her, I looked into her eyes and began to rub her cheek with my fingers.
“I’m scared,” Anne called out to me in tears. “What if I’m paralyzed,” she said with a quiver in her crying voice. “Paramedics are on their way,” said this blood covered Angel of Mercy.
“Are you a doctor,” I asked. “No,” she replied. “I’m a nurse,” as she continued working on Anne.
Moments later a team of paramedics suddenly burst open the doors and with them was a wooden back board designed to stabilize and support Anne’s neck.
This Angel of Mercy briefed them, as they quickly secured Anne. “We’re going to take her to the Stanford Medical Center,” yelled one of the men to me. “It’s the best place for this. You can go to the emergency room and that’s where she’ll be.”
Another paramedic urgently asked me questions about Anne’s medical history.
When he finished, they whisked Anne away. I was in shock still trying to absorb what happened. I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled as the ambulance disappeared into the distance.
I was sick to my stomach but I tried to remain calm.
Then I turned to thank this Angel of Mercy for all she had done, but she was no longer there. She had quietly walked away, her life saving work finished.
As a hotel manager put his business card in my hand I focused on Anne and said, “I have to get to Stanford as quickly as possible. Do you know the fastest way?”
“Yes I do,” he said. He drove me in my car and had a staff person follow us so he could leave my car for me to return to the hotel later.
“Do you know who that woman is who helped Anne,” I asked while we raced down the freeway to Stanford. “No,” he replied. “Can you find out,” I asked. “We’ll try,” he answered.
That was the beginning of a very long two days at Stanford Hospital. Anne’s head injury was bad. She had fractured the lower part of her skull and broken her neck, with a fracture at the C1 level. A C1 fracture often causes death or paralysis and a fractured skull can cause brain damage.
But after a few tense hours we got marvelous news. Anne was expected to fully recover. She would need to wear a large stiff plastic collar and head support for eight weeks and because of the intense pain, take powerful pain killers.
But there was neither paralysis, nor brain damage and she would not need cranial surgery nor would they drill holes in her head to install a supporting halo.
As Anne lay in the hospital bed, her head kept seeping blood and her forehead was swollen and discolored, a bluish tint. Her blond hair was largely red and matted against her head.
This horrific incident happened on November 16th and Anne is still in recovery from it. Two days after it occurred, I carefully drove her for seven hours back to our Los Angeles area home where she is recuperating.
I thanked the hotel staff for their support and rewarded Afonso Hernandez. I also expressed our appreciation to the head of the paramedics, who was proud of how well they performed. He was going to take all of those paramedics to lunch and commend them.
He would thank them on our family’s behalf but he refused to let me pay for that lunch.
However, he like the hotel had no record of who this Angel of Mercy is. I called the San Francisco Chronicle and told this story to them and they may share it with their readers.
Our family is deeply grateful to this wonderful woman but for now; we have no way to express our appreciation.
However, each day I thank God for Anne’s second chance at life.
Life can turn in an instant, and it is my hope that you never face such a crisis. But if you do I hope you too have an Angel of Mercy who suddenly appears in your life.