Giving thanks for the volunteer firemen of rural communities

It was one of the scariest nights of our lives.

Our almost-3-year-old daughter, Caroline, had gone to sleep with a fever and what appeared to be a touch of a stomach bug. During this time of year, that’s pretty much commonplace. And when it’s your third child, well, you feel like you’ve seen it all.

Acetaminophen for the fever? Check. Bowl by the bed? Check.

But at 3 a.m., I awoke to her in distress. Trembling, stiff and unable to focus on my husband, Craig, or me – even with her eyes open.

We truly had NOT seen it all after three kids. This was a first. And, let’s be honest. We were terrified.

Craig called 9-1-1. Then his parents, who live on the Lee family homestead just three miles away.

What happened next still brings me to tears, two weeks later.

Within minutes, our neighbor, cattleman and dear friend, Schuyler, walked through the door. He had gotten the call through our small village’s volunteer fire department. He knew the address being broadcast. He knew the 2 year old in need. And his wife tells me he bolted out the door to help. When I saw his familiar face step into our bedroom, the relief swept over me immediately.

It didn’t take long for our yard and entryway to be filled with other volunteer firemen – our neighbors and friends. Some recognized our address as one they knew. Others had heard a 2 year old was in need and knew it was likely a child of a friend. Because in a small town of only hundreds, everyone knows everyone.

At 3 a.m., when many were in the midst of wrapping up their harvests and had likely been in the fields late the night before, these gentlemen rushed to help their neighbors in need.

The true definition of a hero.

By the time this help arrived, Caroline was coming out of the episode. And when the paramedics arrived minutes later, she was talking and sharing her sweet little grin again.

She took her first ambulance ride that night. It was my first ride, too. (And our 6 year old was slightly jealous. No need to be jealous, son. No need at all.)

After that first night in the ER, the past weeks have been filled with doctor’s visits, lab work and further testing.

They’ve also been filled with many sleepless nights. And worry. And a few too many nonfat pumpkin spice lattes. And momma’s mind going to some rather scary places.

Initially, her episode was diagnosed as a febrile seizure – induced by fever. However, after another episode and further testing, doctors believe the condition is something lesser. Possibly night terrors.

Although that’s not pleasant, that diagnosis is an answer to countless prayers.

During this week of thanks, Craig and I are thankful for three almost-healthy children. Our family who has helped keep the home front going (and homework done) when we’ve needed to be away with our girl. And for our incredible friends who have offered support and many, many prayers.

Without a doubt, I will also be forever thankful for the neighbors and friends who arrived within minutes of our call.

Thank heavens their main purpose that night was emotional support for two frightened parents.

But to know in the case of an emergency, help will arrive within minutes – even in the wee hours of the night – for nothing more than the pride they take in their volunteer roles and the care they have for their neighbors? Well, that’s something I’ll never forget.

Being in the livestock industry, small-town life often comes with the territory.

Sure, there can be inconveniences of living an hour from a Target (gasp) and potentially limited choices of local dining (meaning more cooking, even on the nights we don’t feel like it, by golly).

But, without a doubt, no big city’s paid emergency response teams could compare to the compassion and care provided by those in our small communities. Where neighbors help neighbors, and friends help friends.

And that’s something for which we can all be thankful, indeed.