“A Song for Ryan,” Ensign, Oct. 2003, 64–65
It was the kind of Saturday that makes me appreciate the warm coziness of staying in bed. But this luxury was not to be. The annoying sound of my pager alerted me to a fire at a nearby cement plant, so I threw on my equipment and headed for the door, thankful my helmet would cover my messy hair. Vanity had taken a backseat ever since I joined our small town’s fire department and then became an emergency medical technician (EMT).
The cement plant fire was soon contained. But our pagers went off again, this time asking for EMTs to respond to a freeway injury accident involving a four-year-old boy. I knew this would be difficult, so my partner and I immediately began to pray. No EMT can truthfully say he or she is not affected when caring for seriously injured children.
We arrived to find a white van upside down in the median. I quickly looked around for our patient, thinking perhaps he was still in the vehicle. But I was called to the opposite side of the freeway where several people were huddled over the small form of a child. One man was a doctor. He gave me a rundown of the boy’s most serious injuries, then disappeared into the crowd. A woman was holding the child’s hand and reassuring him. I asked if she knew his name. “His name is Ryan,” she said. “I am his mother.” Remarkably, she and two older children were unhurt.
EMTs follow certain protocols to ensure the best care for patients, but none of these procedures can prepare us for the human suffering we must deal with when responding to horrifying accidents. I remember reviewing my training in my mind but also feeling overwhelmed. My little patient was crying, and I wanted to calm his fears, kiss his hurts away, and promise his frightened mother that he would be all right. My hands went through the routines I knew so well, but I felt so inadequate, so alone. My partner was not able to assist me with Ryan because he was caring for the little boy’s father, who was still trapped in the van.
Ambulances soon arrived. I was assigned to stabilize Ryan’s head on the way to the hospital. I knelt above his head and spoke softly to him, but he continued to cry and thrash about. I worried that he might injure himself further, but restraining him would have caused other problems.
At this point my prayers became more fervent, and I asked Heavenly Father to bless me to know how to comfort and calm Ryan and ease his pain. I immediately received an impression: “Sing to him.” I hesitated. I questioned whether I had understood correctly. After all, I was a professional, and what would it look like to have an EMT singing in an ambulance over a critically injured patient?
Ryan cried out, and again I received the distinct impression: “Sing to him.” As I held his head I quietly leaned close to his ear and started singing, “I am like a star shining brightly, Smiling for the whole world to see” (“I Am like a Star,” Children’s Songbook, 163). As I sang, Ryan became quiet. I sang “I Am a Child of God” and many other Primary songs. I realized Ryan was a Latter-day Saint when I noticed his very distraught mother trying to sing with me. More than once the paramedics became concerned because he was too quiet, but Ryan would respond as asked. I continued singing all the way to the hospital and into the emergency room, where the trauma team took over his care.
Later that day I returned to the hospital to check on Ryan and his father. I learned that Ryan had undergone surgery and was now stabilized and doing well. Even though he and his father would require a lengthy hospital stay to recover, I was grateful for the news. Ryan and I soon became good friends, and I still look forward each year to receiving a Christmas card with Ryan’s picture inside.
I will always remember an answered prayer when my little patient quieted instantly in response to songs he loved, songs that reminded him of how much his Heavenly Father loves him. The effectiveness of emergency medicine is truly a marvel, but the beauty and simplicity of a few Primary songs will forever remain in my memory as a gentle and profound miracle.