In the days following the historic blizzard that hit the Buffalo, New York area on Christmas Eve one particular story of survival stood out.
A 35-year-old woman woke up around 6:00 a.m. to what she believed was the sounds of the storm. It was only when she looked outside that she realized the noise she heard was a man yelling for help.
With the help of her boyfriend she took him inside her home and did everything in her power to save his life. Now, more than a month later she’s speaking out about the “big, valuable lesson” she learned while helping a complete stranger in need.
Sha’Kyra Aughtry had fallen asleep around 2:00 a.m. only to be woken up a few hours later to what sounded like high winds. But once she looked out her window she saw a man in the horrendous conditions screaming for help.
Aughtry’s boyfriend Trent Alls, 33, carried the man, Joseph White, 64, into their home. White was in extremely poor condition. His clothes were frozen to his body and as he is on the autism spectrum he was having difficulty communicating with Aughtry.
She immediately FaceTimed her cousin, a nurse practitioner, who told Aughtry how to safely warm White up using a hair dryer and space heater.
“My cousin told me to chip as much ice off [his hands] as I can, but it was too hard — it was literally like glass,” she said.
His shoes and socks had to be cut off; they were frozen solid.
First call to 911
White was able to tell Aughtry he had a sister named Yvonne White and gave his rescuer his sister’s number. But he was having a difficult time relaying the level of pain he was experiencing.
Rather than use a number scale, Aughtry asked White to compare his pain to how high he’d kick if he was Bruce Lee.
“He likes Bruce Lee, so I told him, ‘If Bruce Lee was in pain, he would kick high to the sky. If Bruce Lee wasn’t in pain, he would kick low to the floor.’ And I asked him, ‘If you were Bruce Lee, the way you’re feeling your pain, how would you kick?’ He said, ‘I’ll kick high to the sky.’ So I knew he was in a lot of pain.”
Aughtry did everything she could to keep him comfortable.
She brushed his teeth, combed his hair, and set up FaceTime with his sister so she could keep his spirits up. They even watched Kung Fu Panda and the Buffalo Bills game.
Meanwhile Yvonne continued to call 911.
“I told one operator, “My brother’s going to die.’ And I was told, ‘Probably.'”
The wait for emergency services continues…
More than 12 hours later no one had come to their rescue.
At one point she contacted the National Guard which had been mobilized and was told “help is on the way.” But it never came.
Night turned into morning and suddenly Joseph was asking for pancakes.
Without hesitation she made him pancakes on Christmas morning. She also fed him pot roast and carrots for Christmas dinner.
“I was his hands, I was everything,” she said.
Once the storm died down family members were able to meet her boyfriend so he could bring her three children who stayed the night at a cousin’s house.
Since she had been busy taking care of Joseph she didn’t have time to wrap her children’s presents so she told them that this year their present was “Uncle Joey.”
“I sat them down and I told them, ‘This year for Christmas, Santa didn’t get a chance to bring us toys. Santa brought us Uncle Joey. Christmas is not always about toys. It’s about love and giving and being kind,’ ” she said. “They went on about their day. They didn’t cry. They started talking to Joey.’
The new friends had a blast together, until Aughtry realized Joseph’s condition was beginning to worsen. With the chances of help arriving slim to none, she went on Facebook Live and pleaded for help.
Safe and sound at the hospital
Joseph was taken to the hospital where he remains in the ICU.
A GoFundMe which was set up to help his recovery stated that on January 12, nine of his fingers had to be amputated due to severe frostbite.
It’s unclear when he will be able to be released, “but he is in the best place he can be right now.”
“People say, “Oh my God, you’re a hero,”” Aughtry said. “I definitely don’t feel like a hero … I could have ignored the cry for help. But I brought him in. And when I bought him in, I just cared for him like he was one of my kids, or like he was my granddad, because I would want somebody to do the same for me.”
“Just be kind. Love one another. I love him forever.”
Such an amazing story. I think we can all learn a lesson from Sha’Kyra. Imagine how much better our world would be if we all had just a little of the compassion Sha’Kyra showed Joseph.
Please share this story to inspire others.