by Lori Coolahan
New Jersey, USA
My friend Nancy, a peppy single mother of three, took one of her girls to school one April day in 2005. Driving home on the main highway in Middletown, New Jersey, she saw a terrible accident: a car was smashed like a pancake under a flat bed truck!
No emergency people had arrived, but a small crowd had gathered. Nancy thought the driver must be dead, but decided to stop. She’d recently taken First Aid and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) training for her Girl Scout Troop.
She asked the crowd if anyone had medical training. Everyone replied, “No”. She told them about her training, and they encouraged her to try to help.
Nancy found the driver completely bent over with the car smashed around him, but breathing. His head was bleeding and he was moving his hands in a panicky way towards his chest.
When Nancy told him she was there to help, and reached in the to check his pulse. He kept thrashing around grabbing at his chest. His seat belt was choking him!
Nancy yelled out that she needed scissors, a box cutter — anything to get the seatbelt off. Someone handed her a box cutter and she managed to cut the seatbelt off. The trapped man dropped forward and stopped clutching his chest, breathing more easily.
A police officer arrived, and he and Nancy stayed with the man until emergency medical personnel arrived. Nancy left, knowing she’d done all she could and now the professionals were in charge.
The man in the car, Dave, survived with only minor injuries. He called Nancy to thank her. He and his wife wanted to thank Nancy in person. Both hugged her the minute they saw her.
It turned out Dave lived in the same town as Nancy; they had children in the same school. Dave asked Nancy to describe the accident, as he didn’t remember much. As she talked, he remembered Nancy yelling about the seatbelt, and feeling better after it was off.
He then told Nancy’s children that the lesson to learn from their mom’s actions is to always try to do the right thing, to stop to try to help someone in need.
Nancy’s five-year-old hugged Nancy’s side as Dave spoke to them, then looked at her mom and said “My mom, my hero”.
Dave later told Nancy that the accident was so bad and that his pulse was so weak that they actually threw the sheet over him thinking he was dead. He said he felt the sheet and started to move and that’s how they knew he was not dead.
These days, many of us — medically trained or not — would rather drive past, thinking “There are plenty of people there already,” or, “What if I get sued for just trying to help?” My friend Nancy, however, decided to stop and see what she could do — and probably saved a life.