Patty Anderson believes in angels and taking time to help by M. Jill Sundstrom Patty Anderson believes in angels?not the kind that sit on a shelf or are hung on a Christmas tree?she believes in real angels.
Anderson, a University of South Dakota alumnus, works at First Midwest Bank in Centerville, where she now lives with her husband and children. She�s also an accomplished singer/songwriter. Her first tape/CD, entitled Songs from the Heart, featuring seven of her own songs, was released in 1996.
�My music is written and sung to give people hope and to enchance their faith and to inspire them to make a difference in their lives, as well as those around them,� she said.
Anderson travels periodically to perform for church groups and nursing homes around the region. An experience while heading home from Rapid City after such a performance is what strengthened her already strong faith in the powers that be.
Riding with her husband, Keith and sister, Bernie, on a clear, but bitterly cold night Feb. 15, 1997, Anderson�s only throughts were crawling into her warm bed for a good night�s sleep. Having already traveled for four hours, the group was weary, but they still had hours of driving time ahead of them.
Their trip home, however, was interrupted by a late-night emergency at the side of the road.
�From out of the blackness of the nearly deserted highway, we saw a light waving up ahead,� Anderson said. �My husband stopped our vehicle behind a car that was pulled over, and a man with a light came running up. He was followed by a woman who asked if we knew CPR. It was then that I knew an emergency was at hand.�
Anderson and her sister approached the car and found an older man who appeared to have had a heart attack.
�His breathing was very shallow and his color was very gray,� Anderson remembered.
An ambulance had been called, but Anderson and her sister knew by instinct that something had to be done to help the man immediately.
�As Girl Scout leaders, we had both been trained in CPR, but had never actually had to save anyone�s life,� Anderson said. �Having no experience, I really didn�t even know where to start, but I did know we had to keep him breathing.�
And so it began. As Anderson and her sister performed CPR, the man�s wife sat on the passenger side of the car pleading with them to help her husband and praying that he wouldn�t die. The scene was frantic. Anderson was frightened. But another presence kept her on track.
�As I bent over the man, the woman who had asked us about our knowledge of CPR, remained right behind me,� Anderson said. �There were moments when I would panic, thinking he was dying and I wasn�t doing this right at all. Then the woman would calm my fears, assuring me I was doing everything exactly right. Her voice never quavered; it was always calm and reassuring. It was constant and soft, never piercing, always praising.�
As Anderson and her sister continued, Anderson�s thoughts turned to her mother who had died in a car accident in 1994.
�We hadn�t been at the scene of our own mother�s accident,� she said. �But if we had been, we would have given every ounce of our strength to keep her alive until medical help arrived.�
The thought reassured her, although both women were becoming fatigued. But Anderson knew, with the help of her prayers and the woman at her side, that they had to continue.
�At one point, my sister stopped and began shouting that she had pamphlets in her purse that told exactly how to do CPR,� Anderson said. �Then the woman gently put her hand on my shoulder, leaned forward so we both could hear, and told us we didn�t need those pamphlets, that we had to remain calm and do exactly as we had been doing.�
After 45 minutes, the ambulance arrived and EMTs took over.
�We stood there with the numb realization that a man�s life had been in our hands,� Anderson said. �All we could do now was watch as the lights of the ambulance drifted off into the darkness. We were now powerless, as we knew it was in God�s hands as to whether the man would live or die.�
Knowing they had done all they could, Anderson and Bernie walked toward the woman who had stood by their side.
�She had on a parka with her hood up, so I couldn�t see her face,� Anderson said. �She said we could be reassured we had done everything exactly right and sometimes it was just one�s time to go.
�I leaned down a little to see her face hidden beneath the fur-lined hood,� she continued. �I�ll never forget her eyes. Even on the darkest of nights, they were pure light, shining out from under her hood with an angelic appearance that I had never seen before. As my sister and I walked back to our vehicle, we bagan to look to see where she went. No one had seen which car she came out of and no one saw her quietly disappear into the darkness.�
Sadly, Anderson found out a few days later that the man had died at the hospital.
�I got a letter from his wife,� she said. �She told us she knew we had done all we could. She said ?you can�t know how much it means that you cared.� �
But Anderson knows.
�One of my songs is about a lesson I learned from my mother ? how important it is to take time,� she said. �We must take time for other people, and for prayer, because God is with us wherever we are. The woman in the parka urged my sister and me to take every second necessary to help that man. Just as Mom would have wanted us to do. Just as we would have done for her.�