I May Have Saved Her Life

Please don’t be dead.

That is the thought that popped into my mind when I saw the driver of the car that had drifted off to the side of the road going up the exit ramp from 101 N to Reyes Adobe a few weeks ago.  She was unconscious, head thrown back and body sprawled out to the right of the seat.  I couldn’t see her face, just her passed out body.

I can’t handle dead.

My mind instantly imagined emergency vehicles, flashing lights, statements given to authorities, a coroner’s van and a shrouded body.  But my own body acted quickly and without thought.  I yanked open the door, put the car in park and took the keys.  I noticed that the woman had a Blackberry in her hand, and an earpiece in her ear.  I gently shook her shoulder.

She woke up.

She was groggy and spoke very slowly, and softly, with a sheepish smile as if this was all an embarrassment and everything would be fine now.  In fact, if the car’s momentum had not run out, it would have continued down the embankment at the right shoulder of the exit and even flipped over.  Or she could have drifted into the other lane of traffic.  Or she could have done any number of different things to other cars.

Luckily, I was behind her, and when I saw the car roll lazily over the substantial curb I knew something was wrong.  As my car passed hers I glanced over, and saw nobody at the wheel.  There were still construction barriers all over the bridge so I was able to pull over inside the cones, put the car in park and dart out to see what was wrong.

Also luckily, my Aunt Kathy was there with me that day.  My kids were with me too, and if Aunt Kathy hadn’t been visiting I would have been unable to leave them in the car to go attend to the wayward vehicle.  As I ran back to the exit ramp I shouted behind me “Call 911!”  Bless her, she answered “Where ARE WE?!” because she lives in CT and had no idea where on God’s Earth we were.  In fact, the 911 dispatchers confused her so much that another good Samaritan who pulled over had to help her describe to the authorities our exact location.

Meanwhile, I sat with S., the woman who fainted as she drove in broad daylight on the 101 freeway through the valley.  She told me she was going through a divorce and she had just driven back from court, and that her kids would be home by now waiting for her.  “I’ll be okay,” she said, intending to just drive home.  But I refused to leave her, or to give her keys back for that matter, until emergency workers arrived.  In any case, there was no way she’d get her car out of that spot safely on her own.  The embankment is made of soft dirt and gravel, and her tires had sunk deep into the earth.

When the emergency workers did arrive about 10 minutes after I got to her, the woman thanked me and closed her eyes again.  A firefighter put his arm on my shoulder and thanked me too.  “Do I need to give you a statement?” I asked, having done something like this a long time ago, although with a much worse outcome for the party involved.  He said no, that I had done my good deed for the day, and that was that.

Minutes later, Aunt Kathy, the kids, and I arrived at the pool.  I had a margarita.  Life went on.  I count my blessings daily, but S.’s predicament reminded me of how lucky I am and how grateful I should be.

But I still take that exit ramp nearly every day, and I can still see her tire marks.  And there, as the saying goes, but for the Grace of God, go I.


  1. Glad everything worked out OK…for everyone.

    My husband recently had a couple of seizures and will not be allowed to drive for at least 3 months. This is exactly why. (He’s had no recurrences, but the very idea of one happening while he’s behind the wheel is terrifying.)

  2. Thank God you were in the right place at the right time! You were that woman’s angel that day.

  3. Michelle Ledesma (Mac) says:

    You gave me chills. So scary for all involved. Glad the outcome was a good one. S was so blessed to have you there. Good job!

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