You ever felt so powerless your stomach hurt? Your knees got weak? You were sweating hard? Have you ever been involved in a situation so traumatic it stunned you into silence?
Tracy Emory had been in many situations that nothing seemed like it could stop him. Most of these events were due to his career as a flight paramedic and helicopter pilot.
But there was this one day when Tracy Emory felt so powerless he fell to his knees.
He would never forget that day. It was an early morning, mid-August. Tracy's shift didn't start for several hours, but he got up early. His wife's long shift at the emergency room was ending today, and he wanted to be able to spend some time with her.
After a quick shower, he walked in his closet to find his clothes. Tracy yawned, "Mmm. I wonder what I should wear today? This flight suit or this one ... What do you think, Bentley?"
He looked down at his dog, a brown and white Shih Tzu, named Bentley. Bentley was a rescue that Tracy, and his wife, Ansley, adopted when he was a baby.
He was now two years old, and sat at Tracy’s feet. His tail thumped against the floor.
"I guess I will get this one out," Tracy said. When he leaned down to grab his shoes, Bentley walked over, and licked him on his face. Tracy made a face, and said, "Dude. Morning breath." Bentley did it again. Tracy pushed him away gentley.
Life had been crazy for the Emorys – well, for the whole world – since February when a virus called coronavirus (COVID-19) became a pandemic. It was a disease that no one seemed to be prepared for, and had no real clue how to stop it.
Ansley had been working for four days straight at the hospital. She was a trauma/emergency room doctor, and heading the COVID-19 unit.
She had told him last night on the phone, “You know, I just feel powerless … I guess we all do. It seems like all we are doing is band-aiding some of these cases.”
Tracy walked into the kitchen, and poured himself a cup of coffee, looking at his watch. His shift started in three hours.
Bentley’s feet made pitter-pattering noises across the tile in the kitchen. Tracy smiled. He watched as Bentley went to his bed by the patio door. The dog got in, and sat, his eyes never moving from the patio glass door.
“You hear her yet, Bentley?” Tracy asked. Bentley looked over at Tracy, and back at the door.
Since it was important to do all sorts of preventative steps to halt the spread of the virus, both he and Ansley would come in from their shifts, and strip to their underwear, and immediately throw clothes and shoes in the washer. The laundry room was outside near the patio.
The patio and backyard was fenced in so no one could see – well – the upstairs’ neighbor could if he was out on the balcony. And that was Jamie, Ansley’s nephew, so it was no biggie.
While he waited for his wife to arrive, Tracy turned on the television to watch the morning news shows. Numbers of active cases of the virus in the city had increased 50 percent almost overnight.
Ansley was right. Everyone felt powerless.
Even those in the know – the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control – were feeling the same way.
Tracy sipped his coffee. Bentley sat up in his bed, and started barking. His tail was wagging. “What do you hear, boy? Is that our girl?”
Bentley stayed in his spot – but his excitement was obvious as his whole body began to shake, and he whimpered.
Tracy listened, and he heard the laundry room door open. He walked over to the guest bathroom across from the kitchen, and turned on the water for her shower.
Ansley Emory, dressed in her underwear, and barefoot, opened the sliding door as Tracy was coming back into the living area. Tracy felt his heart beat faster. even after 10 years of marriage, the sight of Ansley made him feel like a 10-year-old boy who discovered girls for the first time.
She shut the door, and turned around, “Hey, Bentley, Hey Boy. I will be right back.” Ansley smiled at her dog who had been trained to wait until they got their showers.
Ansley looked up at Tracy. “Are you my husband?” She grinned. Her green eyes glittered in spite of the exhaustion she was feeling.
“I hope so … don’t want you walking into some strange man’s house in your underwear. Shower is running. I will go get your clothes. Want some pancakes?” He asked, turning to go toward their bedroom.
“Pineapple?” She asked as she walked to the bathroom to disinfect herself. Tracy laughed, “You know it.”
“How long before you have to leave?” Ansley hollered as she entered the bathroom.
Tracy called, “Three hours.” When he came back from their bedroom with her clothes, Tracy noticed Bentley laying outside the bathroom door.
He reached down to give the dog a pat. “Your girl is home. You can play with her all day for the next two days.” Bentley gave him a tail wag. The bathroom was steaming. Tracy put her clothes on the toilet. “Here are your clothes. I am going to run across the street to get your pancakes. Anything else?”
Ansley stuck her wet head around the curtain, “Nope. I love you.”
“Your dog is outside the bathroom door,” Tracy said.
“BENTLEY … I will be out in just a minute, sugar.” Ansley called.
Tracy was walking from the apartment toward the parking lot when he heard his name, "Tracy." He turned around, and saw his wife's nephew, Jamie, standing on his balcony - half-dressed in his flight suit.
“Hey man, you working today? I thought you were off.” Tracy greeted him.
Jamie shook his head, “Carl called in, so I will be flying with you this shift … can I ride with you?”
“Yeah. What is wrong with your truck?” Tracy asked. Jamie pointed to his truck parked in a space not but three feet from Tracy. Three flat tires.
Tracy groaned, “Man, that sucks.”
Jamie nodded, “I know. You think Ansley can get someone to look at them?”
“Yeah. Probably. She will crash for a while. I am going to get her some pancakes - you want something?” Tracy pointed to a restaurant - diner - across from the complex.
Jamie said, “Ooh … Yeah .. Pineapple pancakes and bacon.”
Tracy nodded, and gave him a thumbs up. Before crossing the street from the apartment complex entrance, he tied on his mask – now required to be worn wherever you went as a preventative measure. There was no traffic.
He walked up to the take-out window at the diner. The owner, Max, stuck his head out. “Lt. Emory … let me guess, pineapple pancakes and bacon, pineapple pancakes and sausage links, and blueberry pancakes and a side of eggs?”
Tracy laughed, “We come over here all the time, huh?”
Max guffawed through his own mask. “You could say that. Give me a second.”
Tracy nodded, and stood several feet away, watching the activity around them. There was some construction crews beginning work on the street behind Max’s place, stores were opening up and noise could be heard from the daycare nearby.
He reflected on the last seven months. Life had been chaotic for everyone, and people just didn’t know what to do. There was too much uncertainty because of the virus … they couldn’t go back to the way they were living before the virus came … too many adjustments needed to be made.
“Here you go, Tracy.” Max called to him. Tracy woke from his daydream, and reached in his wallet as he walked over. “No, no. Your money is no good today. Tell your wife and nephew I said hello.”
Tracy took the bags, “Max, you can’t do that. Come on now.”
Max shook his head, “Look, you guys work from dawn to dusk, never get a break and you are in there doing all you can to fight this thing, and well, you don’t get a lot of help yourselves. It is the least I can do.” Max shrugged.
Tracy put his wallet back. “OK, OK. Thanks, Max. Stay safe.” Tracy was almost back to their unit, when he noticed Jamie running quickly down the stairs, and hurdling over the rail.
Something was wrong by the way that Jamie jumped the rail and ran into Tracy and Ansley’s apartment. Tracy took off in a jog.
He slammed through the opened door, and put the stuff on the table. “Ansley, Jamie.”
That is when he saw them, they both were on the floor, kneeling over Bentley, who was not breathing. They appeared to be doing the Heimlich Maneuver on him.
“What’s going on?” Tracy hollered. His heart felt like it had stopped beating, and he felt weak.
Ansley looked up. Tears were coming down her face, and she was flushed. “He was so excited to see me, and jumped all over me, and, he must have just got too excited. He started choking.”
Jamie was performing CPR with his tools from his bag on the dog who by now had stopped breathing. Ansley moved out of the way, sitting on the edge of the couch, and put her hands on her face, peeking through. Tracy fell to his knees, and watched Jamie, and the dog. Tracy couldn't move. It was like his arms were tied to his body.
In a minute. Bentley let out a whimper, and started panting. Jamie sat back, and put the mouthpiece on the ground, and held Bentley up on his shoulder,petting him until the dog’s breath count was even.
Both Tracy and Ansley sighed. Jamie said, “I think he just got a little overly excited, and caused himself to have a little doggy panic attack.”
“Oh my gosh. I have never felt so ...” Ansley held her arms out for the dog, tears coming down her face. Bentley wagged his tail, and started licking her in the face.
Tracy reached out and shook Jamie’s hand. “Man, thank you. I guess all those years as a veterinary assistant paid off, huh?””
Jamie shook his head. “I guess.”
Tracy crawled over to where his wife was sitting, and reached out to pet, the dog. “Bentley Boo, you scared me, dog.” Bentley licked his hand.
Ansley leaned over the dog's head, and gave her husband a kiss, while holding on to Bentley. "Hi." Tracy smiled.
"All I heard was a scream. I knew I was either in trouble or something was up. And since I have not seen you in four days, I figured I better run.” Jamie stretched as he stood. He walked over, and scratched the top of Bentley's head.
Tracy petted Bentley again and stood up, “All I know is I saw you scurry down the stairs, and you hurdled that rail like nothing ... like you were a superhero or something.”
Bentley seemed to be OK, and wanted to get down. Ansley hugged on him a little bit more. “Should I take him on to see the vet?”
Jamie nodded, “He looks OK, but it might be a good idea.” He walked over to the counter where the food was.
Ansley said, “Nothing.” She put Bentley on the couch beside her, and reached for her cell phone which she had thrown on the coffee table, and looked up the vet’s number. She walked out the patio to check on her laundry. Bentley jumped down, and walked outside behind her.
Tracy shook his head, “Dude, you just saved my dog. Nothing.”
The guys had pulled all the food out, and were eating when Ansley came back, with Bentley shadowing her. “I am going to take him over to the vet’s clinic after you guys leave. They think what you said was right, nephew, but Dr. Bryan said he still wanted to check him out.” She poked Jamie's shoulder.
“It is a good idea.” Jamie said, scarfing down his pancakes. Ansley walked over to her husband, who was eating his eggs, and rubbed his shoulder. He smiled.
“You know what we were talking about last night, about feeling powerless about the virus and everything?” Ansley asked Tracy as she sat down on her stool.
He looked at her, “Yeah?”
“What just happened … I didn’t know what to do. I felt sick to my stomach.” Ansley said.
“Yeah, I was feeling the same way. Crazy feelings.” Tracy touched his arm. "It was like my arms were tied to my body. I couldn't move."
Ansley nodded, "That is feeling powerless, don't you think? Sometimes, when I look at our patients ... the ones who the virus has really attacked, and we are just keeping them comfortable ... what just happened with Bentley kind of set those emotions rolling.”
Tracy shook his head, “That was pretty serious because of our affection for this dog … but this thing with the virus, it is like we are fighting an invisible being.”
“We are sort of,” Jamie interjected.
Ansley reached down, and picked up Bentley. She looked at him, and then back at her husband, then nephew. “All those movies with Superman, Batman, Captain America, the Black Panther … I get them now … not just because of what happened with Bentley, but because of what we do everyday. I am not saying we are superheroes by any means ... I just.”
Tracy nodded, “Yeah … I get what you are trying to say, baby. A lot of times, they never knew what they were fighting or how to stop until some pivotal moment.”
“And then, WHAM, BANG, and our heroes would win,” Jamie said. “You know what Grandpa Gilmore would say?” He looked at his aunt. Grandpa Gilmore was her grandfather, and Jamie’s great grandfather, and a Southern Baptist preacher.
Ansley ate a bite of pancake, and laughed, as Bentley settled in her lap. “This ain’t no superhero movie, folks … Batman, Robin and Spiderman may have some powers that make them special … but God, God has got the real super power … He knows what is going on … He will fix this... He gives the powers.”
Tracy laughed. “Your Grandpa Gilmore was right on. God is doing something with this virus … We have to believe that.”
“Even when we feel powerless, we gotta know that God is already on it,” Jamie said, taking a sip of his orange juice.
Just then, both Tracy’s and Jamie’s work phones went off – an emergency alarm.
Tracey took a bit of his egg, petted Bentley, kissed his wife’s forehead, “Text me when you get back from the vet.”
Ansley nodded. Jamie walked by holding his bag, and gave his aunt a high five, and poked Bentley gently on his back. “Be good.”
After the door shut, Ansley looked at Bentley, “Well, this may not be a superhero movie, but those two make good heroes, don't you think?"
Bentley let out a bark.