What Takes Your Breath Away

I was hurrying to catch a van midtown when I saw a man clearly struggling leaning against a building.

He looked as if he was undergoing treatment, a paleness giving him away, while a tube ran up his nose over his shoulder down into a satchel clinging to his arm.

I stopped to ask if he was okay.

“I need to catch my breath,” he said, panting.

“Do you need me to walk with you?” I said, knowing if he said yes, it would more than likely make me late.

“No,” he said firmly. “I just need a minute.”

What I’ve learned the hard way is, illness is very personal.  It can’t be about you, the observer.  You need to listen and respect whatever the person says even if you passionately disagree.

When my best friend Jackie was dying of lung cancer, she did not want me there.  We spoke on the phone,  I wrote endless letters, but wasn’t one of those she chose to be at her bedside.  It wasn’t easy for me because I loved her so, but knew enough to keep my distance trying valiantly not to take it personally.

This man, who was suffering, didn’t want any help, so I said with forced cheer, take your time sir.  Go when you’re ready.

I went on my way with a pulled heart causing me to stand across the street watching.  His back was to me so he had no idea, but I found myself praying…come on God, help this man.  Streams of people hurried by not even giving him a second look.  Made me angry, the hubris of…that could never happen to me.

Oh yeah?  That’s what I thought before my hearing went south.

I stood on that corner for a very long five minutes silently yelling at God when a cabbie pulled up to the light looking to see what it was I was so fixed on.

“Go help him,” the African said as if it hadn’t occurred to me.

“He doesn’t want any help,” I said, trying to hide my annoyance.

Just then the man started to walk.  I was elated.  The cab driver waved as he sped down Third as if we were co-conspirators.

I ran the two blocks just as the van was gunning its engines grateful, I had made it in time.




About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
This entry was posted in Health, New York City, Women and men and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to What Takes Your Breath Away

  1. We have a patient that comes in just like this man and you’re right, it’s personal. Instinct has me jumping out of my seat, but he A L W A Y S reminds me “I’ve got this.” Meanwhile, I’m dripping in sweat watching him make his way back to the exam room…my nerves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so hard to watch someone else struggle. You want to pull a Superman donning your tights and cape. Well, I’m always in my tights Top, but the cape, unless it was Chanel, I just don’t know. 🙂


  2. skinnyuz2b says:

    It’s not easy to respect what actions or inactions someone wants you to take, when you believe differently. I’m sure that knowing you cared enough to stop gave that man the extra bit of strength he needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joannesisco says:

    Sometimes doing the right thing feels uncomfortable and awkward … especially when the *right* thing feels like the wrong thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We had a few friends that didn’t want visitors at the end. Some didn’t want any sort of remembrance afterward either. It left us feeling useless but as you say, it’s not about us. Dying is very personal and so is any sort of treatment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I do believe illness is such a personal thing. I feel that basically we want people to see us at our best, but I think sometimes illness can rob us of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. LauraBelle says:

    That was really nice of you to stop and ask even though he declined the help. It probably made his day a little bit better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Patricia says:

    You offered help he said no. We have to allow people to be who they are even if they are stubbornly independent. You did the right thing from start to finish.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s so hard to be in that position, where someone needs help and we could easily help them, but they say no. I understand it, to a point, but it’s still hard. You did what you could. Sometimes just asking is enough.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.