“I love you always,” I replied as he left.
I grabbed my dinner and ate alone and then put the rest in the fridge for Ian when he gets home. It’s another fire, but he always comes home.
I decided to put on some sweatpants, since I was just wearing one of Ian’s T-shirts and then grabbed my phone from the nightstand. I had a few missed calls from my mom and a couple from the department. They must have called me when they couldn’t through on his phone.
I called Mom back after sitting on the couch in the living room and turning on the TV. I did what I usually don’t do, and that was turn on the news.
“Hello Sarah…is Ian there?” Mom answered the phone.
“Hello Mom, and he is on the way if you mean there as in the big fire.”
“Yes, I mean the fire at those apartments. Have you seen the blaze, I think every one of the units is now fully engulfed in flames. It’s all over the news.”
“I just turned on the news.”
“Really? I thought you would have heard about it before now.”
“We had our phones on silent and spent the day alone,” I replied.
“Oh my God Sarah, I’m so sorry. Happy Anniversary!”
“Thanks. Ian was making dinner when I saw all the missed calls from the department and when he called back, he ran out of here.”
“He is in my prayers as always sweetie,” she said.
“There are several people still trapped inside and it’s getting harder for the firemen to get in. I hope they can get this under control.”
“I’m sure they will and I pray for everyone’s safety,” I say. Deep down, I really am nervous, but what can I do from here.
“If you need anything sweetie, please let me know. Keep in touch if you hear anything from Ian.”
“I will, love you Mom.”
“Love you, too.”
No sooner than I hang up with Mom, Breaking News comes over the TV. “More firefighters from surrounding cities have shown up to battle the blaze. All twelve apartment units are fully engulfed and the roof has already collapsed on one side. Three more residents have been pulled out of the building, but reports say there are still two more inside one of the units and they are both children.”
I sat glued to the TV watching for updates as they fought this fire. Unfortunately, it has been another dry spring turned summer and the heat is already so high. They are going through hose after hose of water, but it doesn’t seem to be touching it at all.
With the sun now setting in the background of the flames, it is really hard to see or identify anyone in the TV screen, so I can’t tell where Ian is right now. I know I can’t call him, but I just wish I heard something by now. I know the longer the fire burns, the likely of the two children surviving is slim to none and I hate thinking that.
“UPDATE: Another survivor has just been pulled from the building. Firefighters pull out one of the two children that were reported to be inside just moments ago. There is still a firefighter and a child in the building and they seem to be communicating with those outside. Wait, I see another child being pulled through a window on the second floor…OH MY GO…”
The TV screen just went black and the sound cut off. What just happened? “The building has just collapsed, I repeat, the building has just collapsed.” I hear the reporter saying through a cloud of smoke as the TV screen begins to clear. When the smoke clears, only a pile of the building still remains on fire as people are being pushed back away from the debris and smoke.
“A firefighter remains trapped in the rubble after saving the children. Crews are working fast to pull him out, but we cannot get close enough to see where he is. As we hear more, we will let you know. Thank you for watching Channel 5 news for the most updates.”
My pulse is racing and I can feel myself become short of breath. I pray that Ian is safe and is not the one in that building. I check my phone again for the millionth time, but nothing. “Please be OK, please be OK, please be OK,” I chant to myself.
My phone vibrates and I immediately check it to see a text from my mother. “Have you heard anything? Is Ian safe?”
I replied back to her, “I haven’t heard anything and I don’t know. Can Dad call someone and find out…does he still have connections?”
“He will try, honey.”
I don’t respond to her and hold my phone up to my chest. “Please God, let me hear something. I can’t bear not knowing if Ian is OK or not,” I pray.
As I continue to watch the news, things do not look very good. They aren’t able to get close enough to the blaze and no one is talking to them. Minutes tick by…soon twenty minutes have passed…then an hour.
My phone rings…and rings…and rings…
“Hello,” I answer the unknown number.
“May I speak with Mrs. Grant?” the person on the line asks.
“This is she,” I respond. I can feel my throat closing and my heart racing.
“Mrs. Grant, this is Lt. Sanders with the Bismarck Fire Department,” No, no, no, I can’t hear this. “I need you to come to Sanford Medical Center’s Emergency Room immediately. Your husband has been taken there for…”
“What happened?” I interrupted when I found my voice.
“Please meet me at the hospital and I will let you know the details,” he responds.
“I’ll…I’ll be right there,” I reply. I hang up the phone, grab my shoes, purse and keys and run to the car. I don’t remember my drive to the ER and before I know it, I’m running inside.
“Mrs. Grant?” someone stops me as I head to the ER desk. I nod at the man. “I’m Lt. Sanders, I’m the one who called you.”
“Wha…what happened, where is my husband?” I’m doing everything I can to hold back my tears.
“He’s in the operating room as we speak. Please come with me,” he guides me to a private area in the waiting room that is slowly being filled with men from the department and others involved in the fire.
“Is he…is he going to be alright?” I ask weakly.
“Your husband was trapped when the apartment complex collapsed earlier this evening. Are you aware of the incident?”
“Yes…yes, I was watching the news and heard that someone was trapped, but…” I couldn’t go on.
“We managed to get to him and pulled him out, but he was severely burned and inhaled a lot of smoke. We rushed him here as fast as we could, but I don’t know,” his voice cracked.
“He is strong, he has to make it,” I said out loud. I don’t know if I said it for me or for the Lt. sitting in front of me.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Grant, is there anything I can do? Anyone I can call for you?”
“My parents,” I answer. “My father was part of the New Salem volunteer fire department until recently…Ryan Bishop.”
“Yes, I remember him. I will give him a call and have them meet you here.”
“Thank you.” I followed him back to the waiting room and after seeing several men from the department, both fire and police, sitting there, I broke down right in the middle of the room.
“Sarah,” I felt arms wrapping around me when I recognized Craig’s voice. I almost forgot the Craig was on the volunteer team with Ian. “Shhhh, I’m here with you. He will make it, you know how stubborn he is,” he says.
He led me to a chair, but never let me go. I heard him call Marci and tell her that he was OK and was with me in the hospital. He would keep her updated and asked her to let our friends know and to pray.
“Sarah…where is Sarah?” I heard my mother shouting as she entered the ER. Someone must have pointed in my direction as I next felt her pull me into her arms. “Oh, Sarah, I’m here sweetie, I’m here,” she whispered as she rocked me in her arms. “Emily and Joe are here with us too.”
Over an hour has passed and I haven’t heard anything from anyone. Dad and Joe have been trying to talk to the nurse in the ER window, but she isn’t able to say anything. I know there are other families here with others from the apartments, so it’s not fair for me to feel so selfish right now, but I just want answers.
I watched my husband’s friends and co-workers gather together and pray. I felt them lay hands on me as they did which brought me some comfort. I listened to the TV as they announced my husband as a hero for saving those children. I felt my phone vibrate all evening with prayers from my family and friends, but I couldn’t bring myself to read any of the messages.
As it grew later and later into the night, I saw people dwindle from the waiting room as their loved ones were released or taken to a room in the hospital for recovery. A few of the firefighters were called back to the scene to relieve those that were still there, but instead of going home, they came to the ER to sit and wait for news on their comrade.
Emily and Mom took turns sitting with me and offering me something to eat or drink, but I couldn’t handle anything but water. Joe and Dad talked with the guys and tried to get answers from anyone, but with no luck. What a way to celebrate my anniversary…in a waiting room waiting to find out if my husband will live or not. I didn’t want to think about it, but I also couldn’t help myself.
It was now late into the night nearly dawn of the next day. The fire was slowly dying out and only a handful of fighters remained at the scene. The rest were still in the waiting room, even if they were beyond exhaustion themselves.
“Mrs. Grant?” I heard someone call my name.
“I’m Mrs. Grant,” I said standing up. A doctor came over to me. Mom, Dad, Emily and Joe came over to stand next to me as well.
“Mrs. Grant, I’m Dr. Edwards and I’ve been in surgery with your husband. I need to speak to you in private, if you will follow me,” he says.
“These are my parents and Ian’s parents. The rest of the people in here are Ian’s extended family, so please just tell me here. How is Ian?”
“Alright then,” he gives in. “Ian received burns to over 75% of his body along with broken bones and internal damage from the collapse of the building. We fixed as much as we could in surgery, but there is only so much we can do to set the bones seeing as we cannot put a cast on him over the burns.
We have a special cloth covering him right now to cool the skin and keep it from blistering any further. He inhaled a lot of smoke and there is damage in his throat and lungs. He is currently breathing on his own, but is on oxygen and struggling. I need to know what his wishes are if he is no longer able to breathe on his own.”
I knew this would be asked of me and even though I know Ian’s wishes, I have a hard time processing this all. “Before I answer that, is there any chance that he will come out this?” I asked trying to not to break down again.
“It is too soon to tell at this time. Even if his body starts to heal, it will take time for the skin to repair itself and it there isn’t a lot of intact skin for a graph. If we do decide to intubate him, there is a chance that the tube could injure the lining even further. I’m sorry Mrs. Grant.”
“I know Ian does not wish to be kept alive on life support unless there was a chance at full recovery and I don’t believe that…” I pause. “Let him do what he can on his own, and if he declines, then I need to let him be at peace,” I finish.
I can hear Emily sobbing into Joe’s shoulder, but I know she is aware of his wishes. He and I have had this conversation several times, hoping it would never come to having to make the decision, but here it is. He is only 26 years old and fighting for his life after saving others’ lives doing what he loves to do.
“Can I see him?” I ask.
“Yes, I will take you to him. Just you and his parents please,” Dr. Edwards says heading back to the ER doors. “He is in the ICU Burn Unit right now, which is a sterile environment. You will need to gown up, wear a hair net, gloves, booties and a mask.”
“We will be here waiting Sarah,” I hear Craig shout after me. He is standing by my parents as my dad holds my crying mother.
I mouth a ‘thank you’ and follow the doctor to the ICU. Emily is holding my hand as we reach the doors and I hold my breath. We put on everything we are told to and are led to a private room. The closer we get, the more fear goes through me.
“He will be in and out of consciousness, but you may talk to him. Do not expect him to talk to you due the injuries in his throat, however, if he tries, do not let him strain it any further and limit him please.” I nod my head. “If you need anything, press the nurses button and they come and help you.”
“Thank you Dr. Edwards,” Joe says. He nods his head in respect and walks away leaving us in front of the doors that lead to Ian’s room.
After the nurse presses a button, the door opens and we slowly walk into the room. I gasp before I can control myself seeing Ian lying in the bed covered in white bandages and wires all over him connecting to various machines. I hear him gasping for breath and he turns his head towards us.
“Ian?” I say as I walk over to him. I’m not sure if I should touch him anywhere, but he lifts his left hand just enough to reach for me, so I take it in my gloved hand. I see a few burns on the wrist and back of his hand, but the rest looked unharmed.
“Sarah,” he whispers.
“Shhh baby, don’t talk. I’m here and so are your parents,” I tell him.
“Hey sweetie,” Emily says to him standing on his right side. He turns his head and looks at her and then at his father. He looks back at me and I see a tear run down the side of his face.
“They are calling you a hero,” I start off. “You saved those two children and they were able to get away before…” I stopped myself. I take a deep breath and hold back my tears, but one manages to escape.
Ian moves his hand enough to wipe the tear from my face and I gently lean into his hand and close my eyes. I turn my head and kiss his palm before taking it back in my hand.
“Everyone is praying for you Ian. Our friends and family send their love and the entire fire and police department are sitting in the waiting room right now. They are all here for you…for us.”
“We love you son,” Joe says and Emily nods her head.
“Love…you…don’t…cry,” Ian gets out and Emily tries to stop, but it only makes it worse.
“Come on honey, let’s leave them alone,” Joe tells Emily. “We will be back later,” he says to me and I nod.
“I’m…sorry,” Ian says after they leave the room.
“You have nothing to be sorry about baby. This wasn’t your fault; you couldn’t have known this would happen.”
“I…love…you,” he says as his eyes close.
“I love you always. Get some rest, I’m not going anywhere.”
I kiss the back of his hand and I feel him relax a little into the bed. He is still breathing, but occasionally it catches and he struggles to control it.
The nurse comes in to check on him a little while later and asks if I need anything. I told her I didn’t, but would like to stay at his side if I could. She agreed to let me stay until morning, but I would need to leave when the doctor comes back for rounds. I accepted that, for now.
I must have fallen asleep as I woke when I heard the nurses come in to check on Ian. I lifted my head off the mattress where it landed and I was still holding Ian’s hand.
“Morning Mrs. Grant, my name is Lisa.”
“Morning,” I say. “How is he?”
“He’s stable from when I can see, but the doctor will be back shortly to check on him. We are going to have to ask you to return to the waiting room.”
I nod and go to stand up when I feel Ian squeeze my hand. “Don’t…” he tries to speak.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can baby,” I say to reassure him. “Let the doctors and nurses take care of you, OK Ian?” He tries to nod. I kiss the back of his hand and he lets me go.
I leave the room and remove all the stuff I had to put on. I make my way to waiting room and was in complete shock when I saw everyone still here. Some were sleeping in chairs while others were drinking coffee and talking in small groups. “Sarah?” I hear my mom say my name.
“Hey mom,” I run to her and hug her with all my might. She wrapped her arms around me and I felt Dad come up and do the same. Joe and Emily came over as well and we all just hugged.
“How is he?” Emily asked me.
“He’s still in and out, but he was stable when I left. He didn’t want me to go, but the doctors were going in to check on him.” I realized that the room was completely silent as they all listened to me speak.
“Is he…is he going to make it?” Aiden asked me. When did he get here?
“Oh Aiden,” I started and pulled him in for a hug. “He is in pretty bad shape and no one knows right now what the total damage is to his body, but mostly his lungs. He’s really struggling to breathe and there is nothing I can do,” I start to cry and he hugs me again.
“Mrs. Grant, if there anything I or the department can do for you, please let us know. We are here to support you in any way that we can,” Lt. Sanders tells me.
“I really appreciate that and thank you all for being here tonight. I know you all have families that are worried about you, so go home and hang on to them tightly.”
“Marci, me and the gang are here for you if you need us Sarah,” Craig says to me. “Please call us and we will be here.”
“I will Craig and thank you,” I respond and give him a hug. “Love you guys.”
I watched everyone leave except my parents, Ian’s parents and his brother. Together we sat in the waiting room. Dad brought me something to eat from the cafeteria and I ate as much as I could.
Throughout the day, we took turns visiting Ian in his room and by the end of the afternoon, I was the only one left here. I couldn’t go home, so I asked to stay and I was allowed to. Ian was still in and out of sleep, but I didn’t care as long as I could hold his hand and feel every breath he took.
“I love you Ian and I’ll be here as long as they let me be,” I whisper to him and feel him squeeze my hand. I smiled a little and give him a gentle kiss on his lips, which he returned.