In her sequel On Heaven’s Doorstep, Andrea Jo Rodgers relates more of the real-life stories she shared in At Heaven’s Edge and invites us to an intimate relationship with the people she’s met through over 7,000 first aid and fire calls.
Rodgers volunteers as an EMT in a small town on the east coast. She and the crew with whom she works have seen about every type of emergency medical situation possible and are witnesses to what she calls the “mercy of God.” She freely expresses her recognition of God’s intervention in the lives of those they help, and each of her chapters begins with a scripture passage.
It’s the narrative of each rescue that separates the book from an ambulance chaser’s dream. She includes dialogs between family members and provides the setting in which the emergencies begin. To do that she interviews family members later, reviews newspaper articles if there are any, and often follows up with people to see how they are doing.
The chapters are short but powerful. Rodger’s writing skills bring you with her to the scene. Chapter 5 hit a nerve for me in the story of an older couple, not married, but the best of friends. He is a retired doctor who visits when she tells him she isn’t feeling well. Upon arrival, he finds she isn’t breathing and calls for emergency assistance. The hard decision he must make when the EMT’s can’t save her is relatable and sad.
Of course, there are many stories of happy endings and miraculous rescues. There are also situations that seem somewhat implausible.
DISPATCHER: “Request for first aid at 118 Hanover road for an elderly man with his hand stuck in a garbage disposal.”
Here is a spoiler. He is rescued from the disposal though it isn’t easy. Rodgers and her teammates ended up taking the man to the hospital in the ambulance, sink and all.
What I admire most about the way Rodgers presents these stories is her ability to empathize but also be detached. However, she admits her own fears when she finds herself in a vulnerable position. One of the rescues happens at her parent’s house when her father experiences heart failure. She describes her sense of helplessness and dependence on the assistance of others as her friends take charge.
I cannot imagine that anyone could read these stories and not find one that strikes too close to home. Chapter 20, “Setting the Stage” is about an auto accident. The man rescued presents with an abdominal aortic aneurysm in the first stages of dissection. I won’t reveal the final outcome, but I will say that it forced me to close the book for a while as I remembered a similar medical emergency that took the life of one of my loved ones.
Rodger’s purpose is to remind us that we are not always in control. For Christians, it is a reminder of God’s presence in our lives, but this book is for everyone despite religious affiliation. Even those who are agnostic or atheist can understand that when we need help, we can be grateful for those trained to help us.
Genre: Non-fiction, real-life drama
Themes: Miracles, Prayer, Courage, Forgiveness, Healing, Mourning
Year Published: 2018
Audience: Teens, All Adults, All Religions, Agnostics, Atheists