My behind had not yet touched the bench when the gray-haired head of an elderly man hit the wooden side of our booth with a sickening thud. Somehow, the man had been catapulted the 10 feet from his stool at the diner’s counter and now lay nearly at our feet.
I threw off my coat—it was a frigid January afternoon—and knelt beside him. He was terribly upset—hyperventilating, holding his chest and saying over and over, “my heart, my heart.”
I asked him if I could touch him, and he said yes, and so I gently placed my hands on his chest. He was thin, very frail. His face was ashen, his blue eyes wide with fear. His heart pounded wildly.
Where was everyone? Not a waiter or busman or manager stepped forward to see if the man needed help. What was going on here? Ah, there was a woman way behind the counter, standing motionless near the wall, as though willing herself invisible. My hands still on the man’s chest, I yelled for her to call 911.
The other diners continued with their lunches, their conversations. The restaurant and everyone in it felt like props in a play, only there to set the scene. All that seemed real was the frail, elderly man and the gentle power of my Reiki hands.
A week earlier, I had taken the Level II Reiki class, and since that day opportunities to use is had been presenting themselves almost daily. A barn mouse who had been inadvertently scooped into a horse’s bucket with his grain and been slobbered on had passed out from fear. But a few moments of Reiki had brought him back around. And the barn cats, who had never paid me any mind, snaking through my legs as I sat in a chair doing self-Reiki in the sun.
Quickly, so quickly, the pounding of the elderly man’s heart eased; its rhythm slowed. Then his breathing slowed, the terror left his eyes, and the color returned to his cheeks.
The crisis past, he wanted to sit up, but I asked him to please stay where he was until the paramedics arrived. He agreed, then added that he felt fine now, that I didn’t have to keep my hands on his chest, but I told him I would rather leave them there if that was OK.
Calm now, he told me that he lived in an assisted living facility down the block and was a regular customer at the diner. He said he had a heart condition. He was concerned about his heart medication. If he was going to the hospital, he would need his medication.
When the paramedics arrived a few minutes later, I removed my hands from the man’s chest and stood up. The man introduced me as a nurse and said how much I had helped him. I quietly told the paramedics that I was not a nurse, that I had just done my best to calm the man, to keep him from going into shock.
I explained what had happened. As I pointed to the counter, we all realized what had caused the accident: The metal post of the stool the man had been sitting on had snapped, had broken completely in two.
As I took my seat and ordered my lunch, the restaurant and the people in it slowly re-entered my awareness. I spoke with my friend about what had happened, how blessed I felt to have been at the right place at the right time, how blessed to have the gift of Reiki. The paramedics completed their examination of the elder at the front of the diner and then, finding nothing wrong, took him home.
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