Buffalo woman saves 64-year-old stranger with severe frostbite by getting him out of blinding blizzard conditions in New York
BUFFALO, NY — As a powerful storm hit western New York with blinding blizzard conditions in the early hours of Christmas Eve, a Buffalo woman jumped into action when she saw a man caught in the storm.
Sha’Kyra Aughtry said she was at home when she heard someone yelling in her driveway. When she looked out her window, she saw a man calling for help in the freezing cold.
Aughtry’s boyfriend drove the man, 64-year-old Joe White, home, and she used a hair dryer to melt the ice from his red, blistered hands and used a “lawn clipper” to remove the rings, she said in a live stream on Facebook.
When the Buffalo woman tried to call emergency responders for help, no one came, she said. And without a background in medical care, Aughtry said she became concerned for his safety.
She took to Facebook to share what had happened and to plead for help.
“I’m going crazy because I’m afraid,” she said live. “I’m starting to see his body change a lot from the time I’ve had him – his body has been changing rapidly every hour.”
As the storm buried Buffalo in heavy snow, emergency responders were unable to respond to calls for hours over the weekend — with ambulances and rescue crews even getting stuck in the snow, Erie County officials said at news conferences for press.
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At least 31 weather-related deaths have been confirmed in New York’s Erie County, including one attributed to an EMS delay, according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Since no one came to help, Aughtry said she feared for White’s life.
“I called the National Guard. I called 911. I called everybody — they just keep telling me I’m on a list. I don’t want to be on a list,” Aughtry said of her. live streaming. “I don’t care about anything else. This man will not die here.”
Finally, she said, her prayers were answered.
Aughtry posted another live stream on Facebook of her and a group of men taking White to a hospital on Christmas night. “I’m in the car with him and some good Samaritans who came and shoveled snow for us,” she said.
One of the men said he saw her first live stream on Facebook and came to help, according to Aughtry.
The live stream shows Aughtry comforting White in the back of the car on the way to the hospital.
“You’re doing a great job, Joe,” she said. “You just have to breathe, don’t you?”
The family says the frostbitten man is recovering at the hospital
White is now recovering in the ICU with grade four frostbite after arriving at the hospital Sunday night, his sister Yvonne White told CNN.
“I hope and pray for the best,” she said.
Yvonne White said it was a “miracle” that her older brother, who is developmentally disabled and lives in a group home, remembered her phone number when Aughtry picked it up.
White’s employer, Ray Barker, said White became disoriented after leaving his group home on Christmas morning during the blizzard.
Barker added that White may have thought he had to go to work, even though he had the day off.
“He was a mess,” Barker told CNN. “And (Autry) clearly saved his life.”
White’s sister was also thankful for Aughtry, who she says now feels like family.
“We were all trying to help each other and it was great,” she told CNN. “And now I feel like I have a sister and three nephews,” she said, referring to Aughtry and her sons.
Barker is the program director of North Park Theatre, where White works and has known him for more than 30 years. White is the theater’s longest-serving employee, having worked there since 1980.
“Theater is really his whole life,” Barker told CNN.
“We’ve been worried about Joe,” Barker said. “We know he is receiving good medical care at the moment and we look forward to him returning to theatre.”
The theater started fundraisers for Aughtry and for White, which together have raised over $50,000, and the theater honored Aughtry and her boyfriend Trent with a message on its marquee.
“Thank you Sha’Kyra and Trent. Get well soon Joe,” it read.
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