In a near coma, retired fire fighter Mike Weatherbie was hanging onto life as the Station Fire, the largest in Los Angeles’ history, was closing in. Two active firefighters lost their lives in this blaze. Mike’s caregiver and wife, Lori, learned they had to evacuate. But how? What happened next was so touching CBS did a feature (link at the end of this article) based on the story (below) Lori sent to The Caregiver’s Voice. You can’t help but be inspired by this caregiver’s words of gratitude despite the loss she would soon endure. [The Caregiver’s Voice Editor, Brenda Avadian, MA]
On August 26, the “Station Fire” was started in the Angeles National Forest near La Cañada. By Monday, August 31, the fire had spread in many directions, including to Bare Mountain behind Littlerock Reservoir and two ridges behind our home. I was called early in the morning and asked to unlock the gate of a resident behind our home. As I was walking back to my home, I noted half a dozen Fire Engines coming across Cima Mesa Rd. here in Juniper Hills.
The engine stopped beside me. I asked, “does this mean we must evacuate?” The captain said, “Yes…fairly soon.” My problem was getting Mike to the car. Mike…was barely conscious.
I waited as one came up our half-mile long drive. The engine stopped beside me. I asked, “does this mean we must evacuate?” The captain said, “Yes…fairly soon.” I had already packed all the things I wanted to save…pictures, insurance, a few clothes, etc. My problem was getting Mike to the car. Mike who had been suffering from several medical problems, the latest of which was hydrocephalus, had stopped eating and drinking the week before and was barely conscious. When I told the Captain from San Gabriel Station 52A about Mike; he said, “He is our brother and we will do whatever it takes.”
I told the Captain…about Mike; he said, “He is our brother and we will do whatever it takes.”
I walked back to my home, crying from relief. Hospice care, who began helping me the week before, arrived about 30 minutes later. The nurse added morphine to the medications we were giving Mike, to ease his breathing. The aide came and bathed and shaved him, something I had been doing for the last 18 months.
When we were ready, two of the San Gabriel Firemen came to the door. I offered them the wheelchair, but they said, “No.” They would carry “their brother” to the car. They spoke gently to him as they carried him “fireman style” between them. They gently placed him in his seat, made him comfortable with pillows, secured him with the seat belt, then bent over him and gave him a hug and told him it was “time to go.”
Friends had been to our home recently and gave him permission to go, as well. I had told him it was okay to go and that others were taking care of me. He could let go.
I drove away from our home of 42 years with Mike beside me. I held his hand as we always did. I got half way to my daughter’s home, where we planned to stay during evacuation, and had to pull over. The emotions were just too overwhelming. After a few moments, I was able to gain my composure and drove on to our daughter’s home where her husband and our other son-in-law were waiting to carry Mike into the house to another hospital bed.
We made Mike comfortable and sat near him. His breathing was labored and difficult. We made him more comfortable with the medications provided. His breathing eased and then, three hours later, stopped after one deep breath. We checked him, but he was gone to a far better place.
We called our other daughter to let her know her dad was gone. She decided to stay at the house to make sure all was well.
“He’s here! See? The clouds of smoke parted and there’s blue sky.”
I called twenty minutes later to make sure she was okay. I said, “Dad should be there by now.” She exclaimed, “He’s here! See? The clouds of smoke parted and there’s blue sky.” Then she said, “The San Gabriel guys just put Dad’s flag at half staff, both for him and for Arnie and Ted [ed. note: the two firefighters who died in the Station Fire].” This was a flag that Mike had been flying, day and night (lighted, of course), since 9-11. That touched all our hearts.
CBS VIDEO LINK:
Untold Dramatic Rescue in Station Fire Revealed
(Link removed as CBS no longer carries this video on their website. TCV Ed. 6.21.2011)
For a related articles, see:
FIRE! Quick! What really matters?
Caregivers, Ask Questions to Learn What to Expect