Twenty-two years ago this summer, Bryan Lindsay was riding his bike when he was hit by a van and almost killed. He was 7 years old.
Rowan Allen was the paramedic on the scene that day. “When the call came in, it was just before my shift ended that day,” Rowan recalls on a visit to StoryCorps in New York. “The first instinct was, ‘Oh man, right before we get off.’ And then the dispatcher comes back on the air and he says, ‘Child struck.’ That just changes everything. And luckily, we were just a couple blocks away.
“You had a massive dent on your forehead,” Rowan tells Bryan. He remembers Bryan’s mother asking if her son was going to be OK. “And I played it down. And I said to her, ‘Oh just a little bump on the head.’ But to this day, when I start thinking about the details, I get choked up,” says Rowan, now 51.
Before Bryan woke up in the hospital, Rowan and his colleagues at the New York City Fire Department would come by regularly to check on him. “Even after you came out of the hospital and you were getting better, we used to come by the house,” he tells Bryan.
“Yeah. I know. It was second grade, and it was hard to adjust,” says Bryan, now 29. “The kids would call me ‘helmet head’ because I would have a helmet on my head. I remember crying to the doctor saying, ‘I don’t want to go to school.’ And he said, ‘Oh don’t worry, you know, all the ladies gonna love your helmet!’ But it was the complete opposite. It was torture for those years.”
Years went by, and Rowan had no contact with Bryan and his family for a long time. “But one day we brought a patient into the hospital, and I heard this lady’s voice,” Rowan recalls. “I didn’t see her — I just heard the voice, and it stopped me dead in my tracks.
“And so I backed up, and I looked in the room, and there was this little short nurse, and it was your mother,” Rowan continues. “And she saw me. We were hugging up real tight. And she’s crying, and I’m bawling.”
As it turned out, Bryan’s mom, Dorothy Salmon-Lindsay, decided to become a nurse after watching Rowan help her son and care for him after his injury. She has now worked as an ER nurse at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center for a decade.
Bryan was about to graduate from college when his mother and Rowan were reunited. Dorothy asked Rowan to come to Bryan’s graduation party as a surprise.
It worked. When Rowan showed up and rang the doorbell, Dorothy sent her son to open the door.
“She set me up good,” says Bryan, who now owns his own catering business. “You know, just to be here with you is more than I could ever ask. And it’s a privilege to be around you. I really sincerely thank you.”
“I appreciate that, Bryan,” Rowan says. “I mean, to develop this kind of a relationship and this kind of bond — I can’t put it into words. But this is what makes me do what I do. I feel so good.”
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon with Eve Claxton.