It was a hot, May afternoon in Alabama. The day was like any other day until Laurie decided to leave work an hour early and drive a different route home than usual. As Laurie was driving, she saw that she was approaching an accident. Laurie stopped to see if she could help.
“It looked like it wasn’t that bad, an SUV had rear-ended a pickup truck. The airbags had deployed and the driver of the SUV was disoriented and unable to get out of the car.”
Laurie snapped into action; she grabbed a tool to break the window of the car as well as a paper and pencil.
Janelle, the driver of the SUV, was very disoriented from the accident. Using the pencil and paper, Laurie was able to signal to Janelle to unlock the door so that she could enter the car to help her. "I opened the door, and it wouldn’t open all the way because of the impact to the front end. Janelle was struggling to breathe, and I saw that her foot was dangling off her leg. I don’t know enough about medicine to know if her femoral artery was severed."
“All I know is there was a lot of blood. Her foot was completely off her leg just dangling on its end.”
Let that sink in. Janelle had blood gushing from her leg, and her foot was almost completely severed. Knowing that Janelle was bleeding to death, Laurie was quick to act.
“I took my belt off and cinched it hard and held it there. While I was using my belt, a passerby stopped and I asked him to run to my car andgrab my (MyMedic) red First Aid Kit. It was intense and there was a lot of blood so I wrapped her leg again with the RATS tourniquet from the MyMedic MyFAK”.
Laurie had never practiced applying a RATS tourniquet, but she had trained using a scarf. For Janelle’s injury, she used a MyMedic RATS tourniquet and her belt to slow the bleeding while waiting for further aid.
While Janelle and Laurie waited for help to arrive, Laurie knelt down on the busy highway beside Janelle, comforting her and keeping her calm.
“I gently touched her face so she wouldn’t see the condition of her foot and she asked me to call her son so I gave him our location and told him that she’d be going to the hospital by helicopter.”
Laurie planned to stay with Janelle until professionals arrived. The accident took place not even a full mile outside of town so Laurie thought that help would come quickly, but it took 40 minutes for first responders to arrive. The first responder on the scene was from the Volunteer Fire Department. He gave Janelle oxygen and told Laurie to stay positive while they waited for more help to arrive. A police officer, Officer Mike Edwards, arrived and patted Laurie on the back and told her to hang in there. A helicopter landed soon after and airlifted Janelle to safety.
When the call came into emergency services, it was listed as an “accident without injury.” If Laurie had merely driven past the accident like so many other drivers chose to do that day, Janelle could have died. The amount of blood that a person loses when they sever their anterior or posterior tibial artery can be deadly, and it is unlikely that Janelle would have been able to survive the 40-minute wait for help without Laurie and her tourniquet.
Janelle’s survival was unlikely without the help of Laurie and her tourniquet.
Laurie stayed with Janelle until she was loaded into the helicopter and airlifted to the hospital.
“Officer Mike Edwards held my shoulders and told me that he just wanted me to know that I did a great job and he was sorry he wasn’t there.”
“He told me soon I would lose my adrenaline and he didn’t want me to pass out so he stayed with me and we sat in my car while I calmed down. I cried my eyes out; it was so heavy on my heart, I was afraid they would be taking her foot”.
Laurie wasn’t finished yet though; she had to be sure that Janelle was safe. She went to the hospital and visited with Janelle’s son and daughter-in-law while the doctors performed emergency surgery on Janelle. Doctors stated: “Two plates and twenty-five screws later they saved her foot but she can’t put too much pressure on it. She’s not out of the woods yet.”
Janelle considers Laurie to be her guardian angel. “She keeps saying, God sent an angel, God sent an angel! I tell her angels don’t have tempers like I do!” That doesn’t mean that Laurie doesn’t believe she had some help saving Janelle’s life that day.
“God got me up out of my chair and God put me in my car and God put me there at the scene of the accident. Everything aligned in a way that it just wouldn’t on a normal day”.
This type of automobile accident is very common and could have happened to anybody.
“This was not a roll over or anything, this accident was a rear end and the pedal is what got her. That could happen to anybody”.
In the weeks following the accident, Janelle and Laurie have become as close as family. Laurie visited Janelle nearly every day when she was in the hospital and now visits Janelle at least once a week at her rehabilitation facility.
“On Thursdays I make it a point to go by after yoga to see her at rehab and have lunch. Recently my three year old crawled up on the bed with her and told her it’s all going to be okay. When she was in the hospital I went almost every day but now that she’s in rehab she’s farther away so I get to see her once a week. She’s looking better!”
Laurie has one piece of advice that we all should heed: “If you’re driving, you need a First Aid Kit in your car. Period. My daughter turns 16 this fall, and I’m putting one in her car. Everyone needs one in their car. It’s worth it. Cars are replaceable, but lives aren’t.”