This happened a long time ago, nearly twenty years. I was working as Crisis Therapist at a mental health clinic. It was at the end of the day. Well, the office day, not my day as I was on-call after hours. About five minutes to five a client called asking to speak to his Psychiatrist. She had just left for the day and the call came to me. The receptionist had told me the name, so I had his entry in the database up on the screen.
Me: “I’m sorry, Dr. ______ has left for the day. What did you need to talk to her about and how can I help?”
Client: “I just wanted to say goodby.”
Me: “Oh, are you going out of town?”
Client: “You could put it that way” CLICK (He had hung up.)
My stomach did one of those, “This is not good,” flips. I trusted it and dialed 911, requesting a welfare check.
It happened that there was a Sheriff’s Deputy on his way home from work who heard the call on his radio and was only about a block and a half from the house. He went to the address, found the front door ajar and entered. The Client was in the front hall with a box knife. His left forearm was shredded from elbow to wrist with bone exposed and a lot of blood. The officer acted. He knocked away the knife, put both hands around the man’s arm above the elbow, and squeezed with all his strength. He made himself a human tourniquet until the paramedics arrived a few minutes later. The Fire Station was only a few blocks away. They applied a proper tourniquet, started a Saline drip, and loaded the man into the ambulance for the trip to the hospital about ten miles away in the next town.
The hospital was ready when he got there. The surgical team was waiting and he went directly into surgery. He was in surgery for eight hours. The damage was that severe. I don’t remember how many units of blood they used, but a full refill and then some. They pulled him through.
So many ifs: If he had not called to say goodby; If I had tried to call him back, or tried to think about what was going on for a few minutes; If the Deputy had not been so close; If the ambulance crew had been farther away or busy with another call; If the hospital had been much farther away; If the surgical team couldn’t be assembled so quickly; If there had not been enough blood available; That man would have died that day. I am no great believer in Divine Intervention, but that’s a lot of luck for one guy on one day.
When he was medically ready to be transferred to the Psychiatric Hospital, I was off duty, so I didn’t see him and make those arrangements. I didn’t meet him until five years later.
I wa at the ER on another case when that man and his girlfriend brought in a friend (all three were clients of the clinic) who was intoxicated and suicidal. After the friend was settled in I saw the man’s arm, the scars on his arm told me who he was. He didn’t try to hide them. I asked him, “How are you doing?” All he said was, “Five years Clean and Sober.” Then he went to help look after his friend.
It had taken a lot of people to keep that man alive one day. Actually saving his life, that was his own doing.