Resident grateful for student’s comforting presence

A recent bicycle mishap and accidental interaction with a DMU student was a reminder for central Iowa resident Tom Wolfe that while we don’t always remember what another person says, we always remember how that person made us feel.

Tom was riding his bicycle one Sunday morning on the trails around Saylorville Lake when he approached two other bicyclists ahead of him. He’d been going fast down a hill on a curve and steered off the trail to avoid them, but his wheels locked up on the wet grass and he took a tumble.

Fortunately, Ben Madigan, now a third-year student in DMU’s doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) program, and his fiancée, Olivia Rosenow, were bicycling that part of the trail shortly after Tom fell. Olivia happened to spot him. “Someone is down there,” she alerted Ben. He leapt off his bicycle and ran to assist Tom, who had briefly passed out from hitting his head.

Tom Wolfe and Ben Madigan have become friends since Tom’s bicycle injury.

“He was able to talk, so I helped stabilize his neck. I could see blood in his ear and nose, his eye was a mess and his helmet was shattered,” Ben recalled. “His eyes were looking in different directions, which was a red flag for me. I thought we’d better call an ambulance.”

Ben had worked for a year in an emergency room prior to medical school, but he knew his clinical skills were not adequate to do much more than be a calming presence who stayed at Tom’s side until the ambulance arrived. For that, Tom was grateful.

“He was calm and soothing and told me exactly what he saw as my injuries,” he says. He’d had plenty of experience in that role: The former Navy corpsman joined the Urbandale, IA, Fire Department as a volunteer when he was 16 and served for years as a paramedic.

“It’s always tough as a paramedic when someone is sick or injured, because we can’t diagnose conditions,” he says. “When I was with a person in a situation in which there was nothing I could do, I would put my hand on the person’s shoulder. It’s amazing how comforting it is to have someone focused on you. It means a lot.”

The two men have kept in contact since meeting on the bike trail. Tom offered to share with Ben and Olivia one of his areas of expertise, concealed gun safety.

“This is a course he regularly teaches for payment, but he did it for free with us and took us shooting afterwards,” Ben says. “We got to spend some time with him and enjoy one of his hobbies, which was a very cool experience.”

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