A doctor suddenly undertakes the task of saving one homeless old woman after she is taken to his hospital branch for treatment.
Mark Stone was standing outside the ER trying to decide what he could have for lunch to calm his raging hunger. He had been on a shift for hours, and because it started early in the morning, he was yet to eat anything.
Mark looked down at his watch and noticed that it was already quarter past four. “Hey handsome, wanna go grab some food?” Shelly, one of his colleagues, asked him as she stepped out of the ER.
“I don’t mind, I’m famished! It’s been a tough couple of hours,” he said.
Just as they moved towards the hospital’s cafeteria, an ambulance screeched to a stop in front of the hospital, and some EMTs disembarked in the company of an old lady secured on a stretcher.
As they rolled past Mark and Shelly, Mark caught sight of the older woman’s face, and suddenly, he was no longer moving.
Shelly, who had been so carried away with what she was saying, walked a couple of steps before she realized her colleague was no longer keeping up. She looked back and found him walking briskly towards the ER doors where the old woman had disappeared into.
“What happened to the food?” she muttered, confused.
Inside the ER, Mark stood off to one side as he watched the nurses struggle to stabilize the woman. Her face looked old and wrinkled, and her body looked malnourished.
Her clothes looked like what she wore every day, and her hair was tangled into knots from years of neglect. But he recognized her anyway. She was his former high school teacher, Miss Jessica Sullivan. The same woman who had, with her soft-spoken nature, made him into a better version of himself.
The school had dismissed her after she stood firmly against some disciplinary measures taken against some of the less fortunate students whose parents had no influence.
Mark and his friends were sad when she was replaced, and they never saw her again after she moved to another town weeks later. It happened in his last term in high school, but he still felt bitter about the unfair dismissal. To see her in the state she was now only made him feel more terrible.
“What’s the diagnosis?” he asked the nurses after they stabilized the older woman.
“She had a seizure but she’s stable now. Her blood work and other tests are being done right now so we should know more in a bit,” one nurse answered.
“Do you know this woman doctor?” another nurse asked.
Mark could only nod as he returned to his desk, hunger forgotten. As he sat there, his past memories assaulted him; one, in particular, stood out. It was the day he was caught trying to escape the school grounds to get to the skating hideout the students loved.
Miss Sullivan had been the one to bust him, but unlike other teachers who would immediately propose detention, she just took him back to her office for an earful. Only it had not seemed like scolding, more like a discussion between two friends who wanted the best for the other. That meeting had left an impression on him and started a friendship between him and the teacher.
A knock at his office door brought him out of his musing; it was the nurse — they had gotten the test results. It turned out the older woman had a pebble-sized tumor in her skull, which exerted pressure on her brain the bigger it got, causing blackouts and seizures. If she does not get an operation soon, she would most likely die.
“I won’t let that happen,” he said to himself then urged the nurses to schedule the woman for an operation as soon as they could.
Knowing how expensive surgeries could be, Mark started digging around for any way to contact Jessica’s family. He finally got her son’s address, so he decided to take a break from work to go in search of the man.
Mark tracked her son down to a run-down apartment complex that reeked of poverty; the occupants looked haggard, and their environment was very dirty. He stood out in his clean clothes, and so many eyes were on him.
When he finally reached Jessica’s son’s home, he was assaulted by noise and chaos even before the door was opened to him.
“What do you want?” The man asked, looking him up and down like something he could eat.
“Hello Mr. Shepherd, I’m Mark Stone, a doctor,” he said.
“A doctor? Why would you be here? And how do you know my name?”
“Yes. I’m sorry for turning up out of the blue like this, but you see, your mother is in a hospital bed right now and she needs money for surgery to save her life.”
“And you thought to ask me?”
“But of course, you’re the only family she has left,” Mark said, shocked by the attitude.
“Look, I can’t be of any help. My mother has always been able to take care of herself and I help when I can, but right now I can’t. I have my family to worry about and as you can see, things could not get any worse for us.
“I’m sorry doctor, but if I had to choose between her and my family, I would pick my wife and kids. I can’t help without abandoning them and we still have a long road ahead of us, she may simply have reached the end of hers.”
Mark could not believe how unfeeling the son was. Still, he could not blame the man. Look at where he lives, yet you had the guts to ask him for thousands of dollars! he chastised himself.
As he drove back to the hospital, he vowed never to give up; if the woman’s son wouldn’t help, he would.
As soon as he returned to his office, he got out his phone book and started reaching out to his old classmates who had been touched in one way or the other by Jessica.
Together, they all crowdfunded money to get her treated, and there was also enough left over to get her a new place she could move into following her discharge.
After the surgery, Mark kept checking in on Jessica so that when she regained consciousness, his was the face she saw first.
“Mark… Stone? Is that you??” She asked, squinting at him.
“Yes Miss Sullivan, it is,” he beamed as he sat next to her and took her hand in his.
“Oh my little boy, look how much you’ve grown,” she said, pride evident in her eyes.
The surgeon who worked on her entered then, accompanied by some nurses. They needed to make sure she remained stable after the surgery.
“Mr. Stone, fancy meeting you here, I hear you were instrumental in helping this woman get help, good job,” the man said.
“What does he mean, Mark?” Jessica asked.
“Mr. Stone here paid for your surgery expenses and treatment madam, you’re very lucky.”
After the surgeon and nurses left, Jessica thanked Mark, who rebuked her.
“Don’t thank me, Miss Sullivan, this was not just me,” he said. Then he brought out an iPad and set up a conference call with his former schoolmates who contributed money to help their former teacher. They had all come forward to help because Jessica had touched their lives and made them better in one way or the other.
“When I had trouble convincing my parents to let me go to music school, you stepped in to help them understand why it was so important to me. Now I’m a bonafide musician who can afford to give back to my parents and the society,” one woman named Hiny said.
“I was having trouble keeping up with school but you helped me by giving me one-on-one coaching when I needed it, which made all the difference in my exams. Now I’m a civil engineer with a family of my own,” a man named Jake added.
On and on they went until the last person spoke. Jessica shed tears of joy as her former students paid their respects and thanked her for being what they needed as teenagers.
Since then, she and Mark remained in touch until she passed away a few years later. He was glad that she lived the rest of her life in comfort thanks to his help, and it put his mind at peace each time he thought about her.
What did we gain from this story?
Whatever goes around comes around. Jessica was simply reaping the rewards of being a good person and taking her job seriously.
She left her students better than she met them, so when they discovered that she also needed help, they flocked to her rescue later on. That would never have happened had she done things differently while she had power over them.
Help, even if you have to go out of your way to do so. Mark could have chosen to ignore his old teacher; he could have also simply helped by alerting her family members and backing off the case.
It would have been easier, but he did not take that route. Instead, he took the matter of her survival personally and made sure that he was able to help her overcome it, valuing her just like she did him years before.