Several years ago when I was an emergency medical technician (EMT), we were toned out on a call about men in a fight at the local general store. When we arrived, the two men who had instigated the fight were gone. The two young men who were the victims were still there.
One was bruised but okay. My patient, however, had been kicked repeatedly, in ribs and in the head. He was talking to me with full cognitive abilities, but because of the mechanism of his injuries, we wanted to transport him to the hospital anyway.
I was in the back of the aid car working on him, asking him questions, getting a history, blood pressure, and so on. As a precaution, I’d put him on oxygen. I asked a question, and got no answer. When I turned to him, he was out. Completely unconscious. Within seconds. I yelled for the driver who called out the paramedics to meet us.
It was a lesson to me in three ways.
I was fairly newly certified at that time, and it was a lesson in how dangerous head injuries are, and how fast they can change for the worse. Even in someone who had presented no symptoms only moments before. It was scary, and a lesson I never forgot. He survived, and actually, a few years later, came back to town to thank me for being with him. He remembered my holding his hand, not being afraid to touch him. Of all the things that happened during his treatment, and that touch was what stood out for him.
Why you might ask? That’s the second lesson I learned.
The two young men had come to our area of the woods because there was a large and well-known private campground, that actually was across the street from our cabin. And it was a gay campground. This was back in the 1980s.
The two young men had been sitting outside the general store, waiting for an order. The other two men pulled up in a truck and asked them if they knew where the campground was. When they gave directions, those two men got out of the truck and attacked them.
Those men knew about the campground and had come to the mountains specifically looking for those who camped there. Looking for gay men to attack and beat up. I was shocked by the cruelty and bigotry. (They were eventually arrested.)
That campground was busy on weekends. It was in the woods and our place was the only neighbor. The road was narrow with trees to the edges and not much shoulder, so on weekends the road was crowded with cars on both sides.
Which meant that in the mornings, those cars would have slashed tires, broken windshields, and nasty graffiti painted on them.
My father, from a generation when being gay wasn’t as well known, was angered by this. He took to patrolling the road in the evenings, an old man in bib overalls and black-framed glasses, with his thinning flat-top haircut, and an old Savage short-barrel shotgun over his shoulder.
He’d decided all those going to the campground were ‘his boys’ and he took on the job of watching out for them.
It quickly became known in the campground what my dad was doing. It didn’t take long before campers, men and women, were crossing the street to visit. They would sit in that tiny cabin and have coffee and cookies with my mom. They would potter around with my dad. They helped stack firewood. My parents became their surrogate parents, an old couple accepting them, not judging them, and loving them. Several long-term friendships were created.
I remember one man, Jeff, who became a good friend of mine, and who ended up moving permanently to the neighborhood. When I first started going out walking with the man who would become my husband, Jeff took him aside and had a talk with him. Told him if he ever hurt me, he would have to answer to Jeff.
Another friend from the campground, Kevin, had a huge crush on my husband. And my husband, being the strong and wonderful man he is, was flattered rather than horrified or embarrassed, or threatened.
Which leads me to lesson three. For as much bigotry and hatred that still exists today, and seems to be growing, there are still those who care. As Pride Month draws to a close, I hope those who love continue to outnumber those who hate.