It was a gorgeous spring night in April 1981. An eighteen-year-old college girl, home for vacation, was leaving a party at 10:30 pm with her friend and neighbor, Billy. They drove away in his small coupe. It had a stick shift which the girl had never driven. Less than five minutes after leaving the house party, the car hit a residential brick retaining wall throwing the girl out on the ground. She bled profusely from her face and head. Billy was seen walking around and heard saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” The homeowner immediately called the police for an ambulance and a crowd of neighbors stood on his lawn including the pastor from Holy Cross Church, Springfield, MA which was located across the street from the scene.
No one went near the girl who was clearly having trouble breathing. Her bleeding continued dripping on the grass around her. This was a time before cell phones. The crowd murmured their fears for the girl’s life.
A loud muffler exhibit of a beat-up Volkswagen, whose color may have been yellow, and whose windows and fenders were covered with peace stickers pulled up in a show of exhaust noises. Disheveled, if not beat up, man in his late thirties and wearing a dirty mechanics uniform exited the vehicle. He pushed his dirty blonde hair back from his head, with great deliberateness made his way through the crowd. He walked with the authority of one in the know and standing over the girl, he asked, “What’s her name?”
Not one person tried to stop him. He was told her name. With lithe movement, he laid down aside of her, brushed her hair back from her face, checked her tongue in her mouth, and stroking her shoulder repeated, continuously, the following mantra, “Stay with us, Baby. You are needed here. We all love you. You are special. Stay here, it’s not your time. It’s time to breathe and think of good things. It’s just not your time.”
Over and over he repeated the words until the ambulance arrived. The girl was taken to the hospital. The crowd slowly dispersed. The Pastor approached the young man and asked, “Please give me your name and number? You must have been a medic in Vietnam. The parents will want to know how caring and professional you were. I am humbled by your actions; you shame me.”
The man in the dirty mechanics’ outfit, as if in a television movie, said, “Not important. I did what I came to do.”
Fast forward to the Wesson Hospital where the parents were told by the on-call Neurosurgeon to, “Let her go. If she were to survive, she’ll be a vegetable. You don’t want that. If the guy at the site had not kept talking to her she would be dead by now. Let her go. The damage will be too great if she lives.”
The mother said very quietly, “No, I’ll take her any way I can get her.”
Billy’s uncle, a well-known neurosurgeon, had also been called. He spoke with the parents and said, “We really don’t know what her future is. She stopped breathing several times in the hospital, but I’ll support your wishes to try.”
There resulted in a debate between the two doctors with the first neurosurgeon retiring from the case. The girl was then moved to Bay State Medical (Springfield Hospital at that time). Her team of doctors were many. Her journey back from 37 fractures of her skull (when they stopped counting), serious eye damage, crushed orbital, multiple fractures of her jaw, spinal fluid leaks from all portals, and other damages including a ten-day coma, some paralysis for several weeks, facial disfiguration, pierced eardrum, etc. She spent many weeks in the hospital and within a year she was back in college. Within two years after surgeries at the University of Virginia Medical Center and recuperation, her injuries were unnoticeable. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is a special education teacher as well as a mother of two young men.
During her time in the hospital, the mechanic called the hospital every day asking how the young girl was doing. Try as they might to connect him with the parents who wanted to thank him, he repeatedly said, “Not important. Her doing well is important.”
I tell you this story, and it is not fiction; the girl is my daughter Kerstin and the mechanic is her guardian angel. If I did not believe in the forces doing God’s work before, I learned then. Guardian angels do not wear wings; in my mind, they wear mechanics’ uniforms.
By K. B. Pellegrino ©2017