Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma
Date: October 17, 1991
On October 17, 1991, seventeen-year-old Jamie Scavona and her best friend, Heather Walter, were returning from a local mall to their home in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Jamie and Heather were driving down the four-lane interstate in Jamie's pickup truck, and neither girl was wearing a seat belt. Jamie was driving fast and not paying attention to the road. The girls were chatting and listening to the radio when Jamie's truck veered onto the grassy median. Jamie steered to get back on the road, but she overcompensated and lost control. Her truck swerved off the road and flipped several times before landing on the driver's side.
Heather lay in the passenger seat, bruised and badly shaken. As she came to her senses. she saw that the driver's seat was empty and that a bloodied arm was waving to her outside the window. Apparently, during the crash, Jamie had been thrown from the truck. After flipping, the vehicle had landed on her. Heather climbed out the passenger seat window and screamed for help.
Mark Gardner happened to driving down the interstate on his way to catch a plane when he saw Jamie's truck and heard Heather's cry for help. He pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road and ran to the scene. The sight of Jamie pinned under the truck scared him because he could picture his daughter in her place. Jamie looked pale and was barely breathing. Mark knew he had to get the truck off her. He squatted, and, through sheer adrenaline, lifted the pickup and rolled it back on its wheels.
One of the many passing motorists who stopped to look at the accident called the Oklahoma Highway Patrol from a car phone. Mark knelt by Jamie and told her to hold on and relax. Help was on the way. But Jamie, whose respiration problems were complicated by asthma, stopped breathing. Mark didn't know what to do. He asked bystanders whether anyone knew first aid. No one came forward. "Looks like she's gone," someone said. "No she's not, because, by God, I'm not going to let her go," responded Mark.
Mark did the best thing he could. He'd seen someone perform rescue breathing on the television program Rescue 911, and he decided it was better to try the technique than do nothing. He pinched Jamie's nose and breathed into her mouth several times. Jamie gasped for air and started breathing weakly on her own. Someone told Mark to give Jamie her inhaler, which helped her breathe during an asthma attack, but Mark was afraid to use it.
When State Trooper Robert Park responded to the scene, Mark asked if he would radio rescue units en route from the Guthrie Fire Department and find out if it would be safe for Jamie to use her inhaler. EMTs Mike O'Connor and Chuck Burtcher radioed back that it would be okay. Mark finally remembered he had a plane to catch. He gave the officer his name, address, and phone number, then drove away.
Medics rushed Jamie to Stillwater Medical Center where she was treated by Dr. Doug Wilsey. She was in severe respiratory distress and suffering from acute asthma. Jamie underwent surgery to repair a partial collapse of one lung, several fractures, including her pelvis and collarbone, and a ruptured bladder. Two and a half weeks later, she was released from the hospital.
Today, despite her asthma, Jamie is in good health. She feels she's been given a second chance at life as well as some important lessons. She doesn't speed anymore, and she wears her seat belt. Mark and Jamie have become buddies as a result of the accident. "I owe everything to Mark," says Jamie. "If he hadn't shown up, I wouldn't be here today. To me he's a hero." Mark says he also learned some lessons. He enrolled in a first aid and CPR class. And he learned it pays to get involved. "Don't be afraid to stop and help," he says. "You can make a difference."