19 July 2014

The True Meaning of Service

In the wee hours of the morning, July 14, 2014, I was awoken by Thane ramming his body hard against the back of his crate which had the impact of vibrating my bed to wake me. My first thought was that he might still not be feeling too well from the impacts of the heatwave, but this seemed out of character for him. He had NEVER done anything like this before. He meant business and I could tell he was unsettled.

I quickly got out of bed, let him out of his crate, and as soon as I did he tore for the front door.  After checking the back patio door which overlooks the parking lot, I ascertained there was a big problem indeed. There was a maze of flashing emergency lights out front, more than had ever been here for previous individual tenant needs.

I raced to the front door where I smelled smoke. I have no idea how bad the smoke was because I seem to have a greater ability to ascertain certain types of smells and where they are coming from. It isn't the heightened sense of someone with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities)  but it is a sense I can use to assist me in life more so than my blind friends seem to have. Perhaps it was heightened at this moment because for so many years this sense was used to protect me from danger.

I  harnessed Thane with the essentials I could not do without to navigate, and headed out the door still in my pjs (not even thinking about that little detail).

The building wide fire alarm was blaring, but I was not privy to that as a deafblind tenant. Thane has always been sound sensitive to our fire alarm (not to be confused with the simple smoke detectors in most apartments and homes that can be shut off once you are alerted to them). This time, he was all business, doing what needed to be done to save me/ us.

I had a really difficult time getting through the two fire doors that blocked passage to the only outside doors that have wheelchair accessibility. Once I got to the final door which led to the outside, a really nice gal held it open so we could get through it more easily than our normal approach.

She was trying to talk to me, but I could not understand her. I explained that I was deafblind. Immediately she began to fingerspell when she heard the word deaf, but I could not read her signing. I explained to her that I needed to feel her hand to understand what she was signing. She was awesome and helped me understand what was going on. She even knew one of my friends here and took us to where she was after I got wet by the grounds sprinklers going off.  Being with my friend helped both Thane and I relax.

The sprinkler system did its job with the fire in the unit one floor up and directly across the narrow hallway from me. The water damage from the sprinklers is being dealt with for both of the two units and the hallways-- lots of work ahead with that, but the bottom line is that everyone was OK.

I am just so impressed with Thane's work. We've never had a situation where I needed him more than I did while I was sleeping that night. Something changed in us after this experience. I realized just how much my wonderful sidekick will do for me when danger is knocking at my door. We are both OK, albeit a bit rattled from the experience that first day.

When the firemen were leaving the apartment across the hall from me, I had the opportunity to speak to them about my safety concerns in an emergency. Thane definitely proved himself in this situation, but I just have felt it important to have a safety net with emergency response teams knowing to check that I made it out. My address is being flagged so emergency personnel will always check. In other places I have lived, there isn't a very high turnover of tenants, but here, I have been here longer than anyone in my wing on this floor so relying upon a neighbor in an emergency wasn't the answer. I'm grateful for the firemen's ability to input my address to give me an extra sense of security. It is my hope that we will never experience another such experience again. I plan on putting together a good go bag so that if there is an emergency to contend with again, I am ready to get out the door more quickly. One can never be too prepared. 

The memory I am taking away from this experience is just how much Thane ROCKED! He is my HERO!