want a van
Friends, the mercy and grace of God recently led me into a life-and-death encounter with the beautiful soul of a homeless man. It changed my perspective on emergency medical care in our communities, the depth of spiritual need that exists, and how simply and readily we can each be of real help. Let me tell you the story.
My name is AnnaMaria Cardinalli. I’m a Navy veteran, and I deployed with JSOC and the Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a woman, I was especially tasked with working in the villages, often rendering aid to address basic needs among the most disenfranchised populations, as I could go where men were not allowed. My work was in intelligence, and I learned quickly the effectiveness and winning strategy of compassionately-delivered food and medical aid.
I was given fantastic training in cutting-edge emergency medicine, and I developed a passion for it. So, in recent months, I decided to get a license to volunteer as an EMT. I never imagined I’d have to use the skills I just refreshed so quickly, when my mom and I made a fateful trip to Walmart!
Even in a relatively well-off town like ours, the stretch of road leading to Walmart is dotted with rent-by-the hour motels, those obvious facilitators of human trafficking, and the drug trade that enslaves its victims. We saw a commotion of homeless people trying desperately to flag down a car from the sidewalk, so my mom managed a heroic driving maneuver, and I ran to see the problem.
Surrounded by his frantic friends, a man lay on the sidewalk, not breathing and without a pulse. He was still warm, and his eyes had the tragically common characteristic appearance of an opioid overdose. Opioid overdoses can be reversed with the drug Narcan, but obviously, the patient must be alive to receive it. Mom ran to call 911 for Narcan, and I began CPR.
In a moment of grace beyond my imagination, to the tearful joy of the friends who held his wrist, the man regained his pulse. He could not breathe, so I breathed for him until the police arrived with the Narcan, which revived him completely. God gave me the unbelievable grace to hold this man’s face as he recovered and speak to him of Jesus’ love for His soul--a love clearly evidenced by the near-miraculous second chance with which he was gifted.
I was shocked to realize, however, that this story does not have an entirely happy ending. It is, however, an ending we can change together. When an ambulance crew finally arrived, I was angrily berated for using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I understand the COVID-era concern, and had I been prepared for this emergency, I would have had a bag-valve mask for the administration of CPR, but I explained that because he was not breathing and I had no equipment, I did not see an alternative.
In front of the overdose victim’s friends, who I presume may face the same difficulties of addiction that he did, along with the tragedy and suffering that led to addiction in their lives, the ambulance crew member responded in a way that said, “He is addicted. He wasn’t worth your breath.”
I know, my good brothers and sisters reading this, that you don’t see this man’s soul as the world sees it but as God sees it: equally worthy of love and of every chance as any of us. The exhausted EMS system, however, can not be blamed for lacking this perspective when they are caught in a seemingly endless war. That’s the war in Narcanistan.
Narcanistan is not just a war for lives, but a war to bring our world’s most injured and suffering souls to Jesus’s healing love and Divine Mercy. Fortunately, if there’s one thing I’m familiar with, it’s how to fight a war! It is time to bring special forces tactics to the spiritual warfare on our streets, and winning starts with food and excellent emergency medical aid.
I now belong to a small emerging community of Catholic women, and the brilliant pastor of our Church is extremely experienced in working with homeless populations. Together, we have an inexpensive and easy idea that could relieve pressure on the EMS system from the homeless population and give access to emergency care to those who can not reach it by traditional means. More importantly, it is a solution that would deliver spiritual care along with physical care.
What’s the solution? We need a van! We’ll simply drive around and make ourselves available in the difficult parts of town! In the van, we’ll place an experienced priest and counselor along with well-trained medical aid providers operating under good samaritan provisions in environments where medical emergencies are apt to occur and are underserved by local EMS. The price of a used van is around $20,000 (unless a generous donor happens to own a van they don’t need), and we require another $5,000 to initially stock it with medical supplies (like the masks necessary to safely deliver CPR) along with prepackaged nutrition such as MRE’s and other necessities.
We are a 501c3, so larger donations, such as a van, are tax-deductible. Can we “enlist” your help in the war? Click here to donate, and may God reward your compassionate generosity!
With God's help and yours, friends, we have already been able to do so much more than our original mission plan envisioned! Even without a van, in our current vehicle, we are able to help keep some of the most vulnerable of our homeless population warm and fed, and offer them God's love and ours. These things are as critical to our emergency healthcare hopes as the first aid goal with which our mission originated. Read our updated mission statement here, and be sure to watch the second video on the homepage (titled "Our Operation") to see what we're up to in our day-to-day outings!