March 15, 2018

A Great Example of Human Kindness

Although this originally appeared in Gannett's County Post, it was also picked up by Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, and U.S. News & World Report.  It's getting the word out there that you don't have to be with EMS to save someone's life.  
Call 9-1-1.

Here's the story. It's a good one.


Bonni Brodnick doesn’t take life for granted after coming so close to losing her own.

Each day lived, she is grateful to a South Jersey couple for the kindness and care they offered last Easter Sunday.

“I was picking up my mother to bring her to my house,” said Brodnick, a Tarrytown, New York resident. “It’s no big deal, on a good day I can do it in 35 minutes.”

Joe Manno and Janie Parks, in Connecticut for a friend’s wedding, were headed home to Pittsgrove for a holiday family gathering.

Both vehicles were traveling in the middle lane of I-95, heading south through Darien, Conn., when Brodnick suffered a stroke.

“Traffic started slowing down,” Manno told The Daily Journal during a recent interview. “I was trying to figure out what was going on, I could see the one car in the center lane, they were just going slow.”

“I was like what the heck is the person doing,” he said.

Then they noticed a person in the passenger seat frantically gesturing.
“She put her hand out the window trying to point, like they needed to get over,” Manno said. “When they scooted over and got into the shoulder, they just bounced on the guardrail until they came to a stop.”

Inside that Honda CR-V, Brodnick, 61, didn’t comprehend what was happening when the stroke hit.

“I was in fine fiddle, I was in good shape, I was happy, my life was great, I wasn’t stressed,” she said, during a phone interview with The Daily Journal. “There was nothing, no indication, my mother said I had helped her with gardening that morning.”

“We were 10 minutes from her house, I was looking at my hand shaking in the console and thinking, ‘That is just sort of strange,’ not aware that I was still driving,’” she said.

“My mother said she called my name and I didn’t respond; then she screamed, ‘Pull over, pull over,’” Brodnick said. “I was not aware of anything at all.”

The stroke weakened Brodnick’s right side so she couldn’t maintain pressure on the gas pedal. Her mother grabbed the wheel to steer them off the road.

“At that point, we were passing them,” Parks said. “I was looking inside the car to see who was in it, what was going on.”

Seeing the two women, she turned to Manno and said, “We should pull over.”

Manno, 27, a mechanic at JM Deisel Truck Services Inc. in Glassboro, suspected car trouble.

“I know when your car goes out, you’ve got no power steering,” he said.
Walking up to the vehicle, he realized that was not the case.
“Her mom was hitting the horn, screaming, “Call 911,” Manno said.

Parks ran back to their car to get her phone and called for help.

“I noticed she had a stroke pretty quick,” Manno said, “Her face was drooping and she had no control over her right side.”

“After I realized what had gone on, I went over to the other side of the guard rail because traffic was picking up,” he said. “Then I jumped in the car to put it in park because it was still running.”

Manno focused on Brodnick and Parks calmed Brodnick’s mom until the ambulance arrived.

“I wanted to go to the hospital, just to see how she was but we weren’t family,” Parks said. “We had family in Jersey that we had to get to — so we said we did our part and we just kept going.”

They couldn’t stop thinking about Brodnick, who they only knew by her first name.

“I did contact a detective about a month later to see if I could leave my phone number at least,” said Parks, 24, a vet technician at the Regional Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Turnersville. “I left a message.”

After her hospital stays, Brodnick transferred to in-patient rehabilitation.
“I was pretty paralyzed after the stroke, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk,” she said.  “My vision got really messed up."

And her 29-year-old son, David, was getting married in six weeks.

As she healed, Brodnick grew more determined to thank the young strangers.

“I’m thinking more clearly now, I just thought I have to find out who they were,” she said. “I remembered them so clearly when they ran up.”

“My mom told me what they did,” she said. “I knew they had saved my life.”

Quick access to medical care is critical to surviving a stroke and reducing disability.

Brodnick requested first-responder reports from multiple agencies until she finally received one with Manno’s name and address in it.

“I looked in the directory, there were two Joe Mannos, Jr. and Sr.,” she said. On New Year’s Eve, she called. “I left messages for both.”

Manno’s mom, Judy, got the voicemail. She was aware of her son’s Easter encounter on I-95.

“When I listened, I was in shock,” Judy Manno said, passing the message onto her son and Parks.

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Parks said. “It was seven months later, I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

The next day, they called her back.

“It was very meaningful for me,” Brodnick said. “I get emotional talking about it. I wasn’t emotional on the call but these two people, they just really saved my life.”

“It was wonderful, wonderful to be in touch with them,” she said.

They are staying in touch.

“We’re emailing back and forth,” Parks said. “It feels like I have a long-distance aunt.”

They were pleased to learn of her recovery and that she attended her son's wedding.

"I walked down the aisle with him and I got to dance with my son," she told them. "All I can say is thank you, you obviously had a big role in my being here today."

Brodnick calls Parks and Manno “my Good Samaritan saviors.”

“It’s amazing that they stopped because they had a long drive,” she said.

“I’m still shocked that no one else pulled over,” Parks said. “No one, we were the only ones.”

Why did they?

“We’re just that kind of people,” Manno said.

“I feel very bonded with them,” Brodnick said. “They are so adorable, they are the ages of my kids.”

Brodnick recently celebrated her birthday. Manno and Parks were on her mind.

“I’m sure this is going come up at many other junctures, but this was the first birthday after the stroke,” she said

“Every single thing I do, I feel grateful,” Brodnick said. “When I walk up the stairs, I’m grateful that I can do it and it’s easier for me now than it was in the beginning.”

“Just holding a needle and being able to sew, was incredible, my hand was too weak before,” Brodnick said. “Everything I do has meaning.”

Manno and Parks also were changed that Easter Sunday.

“That day left an impact on our lives, reminding us tomorrow is never promised,” Manno wrote in an email to Brodnick.

They don’t know why they were there at that very moment Brodnick needed them but Manno has an idea.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he said.

#  #  #

Deborah M. Marko: @dmarko_dj;

February 27, 2018

Gannett's DAILY JOURNAL Touts Janie Parks & Joe Manna as "Good Samaritan Saviors"

Janie and Joe did it!! They saved my life.

Deb Marko, a reporter at The Daily Journal said, "I cover so many awful stories. How did you know this is the kind of story I love to write?"

Read "South Jersey couple hailed as 'Good Samaritan saviors'".

February 21, 2018

Snappy + Sassy: Betty Kogen

Here is my mom, Betty Kogen ... the woman who gave me life, not once, but TWICE!! (See HuffPost, "My Stroke: Still Here.")

Here she is contemplating which store she liked most: Uniqlo or IKea. Decided it was a tie ... "But then there's Neiman-Marcus, of course."

87 years young ... and full of wonder!

January 28, 2018

David Brodnick Marries Libby Mattern

"Please deliver requests for marriage at least six weeks before the legal event," writes The New York Times. I had started writing David and Libby's in the beginning of April and made a self-deadline to submit it by mid-month. Surely, thatwas enough time for a June 17 wedding. The problem was: I had a stroke on April 16. 
The announcement languished on my desktop for months as I began my recovery from Strokeland. 
"I have to get the announcement in!" I said to my daughter. She helped me finish and submit it. Alas, we were too late.
So here, for your reading pleasure, is the announcement of the beautiful marriage of David and Libby.
*  *  *
Elizabeth (Libby) Marie Mattern and David Hale Brodnick are to be married on June 17 at Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury, Mass.  Kate Mattern, sister of the bride, received a marriage designation from the State of Massachusetts to officiate the wedding.

The bride, 28, is director of production at Malia Mills, swimwear and ready-to-wear company based in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Cornell University where she received a bachelor of science degree in Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

She is the daughter of Mary and Harry Mattern of Kingston, Pennsylvania. Her father is a local attorney and town solicitor of Kingston. Her mother is an artist and art teacher at Wyoming Valley West High School in Plymouth, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Brodnick, 28, is a vice president at BlackRock, a global investment management firm. He graduated from Cornell University where he received a bachelor of arts degree in History and Near Eastern Studies.

He is the son of Bonni and Andrew Brodnick of Tarrytown, New York. His father is a real estate attorney in Rye Brook, New York. His mother is a writer and author of “Pound Ridge Past.”

Although the couple only met briefly at Cornell, their paths crossed several times. They were re-introduced after graduation at a New Year’s Eve party that Mr. Brodnick and his roommates hosted in Brooklyn.  
                                                                     # # #

January 22, 2018

Found My Good Samaritans: Joe Manno & Janie Parks

Janie Parks and Joe Manno
In my HuffPost, My Stroke: I'm Still Here, I write, "... She (my 86-year-old mother) leaned over and veered the car into the right shoulder, where it collided into the metal beam guard raid. I remember two college-age people in a white car run up to the side of the car. Imagine driving and seeing a car slowly crash. They must have known something must be very wrong. ... The next thing I remember is watching these two Good Samaritans run back to their car. They must have called 911. And then, I was out. Now, 7 months later, I wish I knew who they were. I would them profusely. They saved my life. ...
My quest was to find them. Surely, the Darien EMS would have the information: it was their ambulance that brought me to the hospital. When I called they said they don't have reports from State highways. I was referred to Troop G, who patrols that leg of Interstate 95. They referred me to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services, who required a letter requesting what I was seeking. I followed up and was told it usually takes 2 years (whahhhh???) to fulfill requests. "I remember your story. I'll send it right out."
I finally received the emergency report.  "Vehicle #1 was traveling southbound in the center lane of three of Interstate 95. Operator #1 suffered a stroke while driving, causing the vehicle to veer into the right shoulder, where it collided in to the metal beam guide rail.
"A witness (Witness #1) that was traveling south bound on Interstate 95, stated that he observed Vehicle #1 traveling sought in the center lane of three. He stated that the passenger traveling in Vehicle #1 was motioning out the window for vehicles to move over and as she was doing so, Vehicle #1 veered into the right shoulder, where it collided into the metal beam guide rail. 
"Operator #1 was unable to provide a statement due to her medical condition. The mother of Operator #1 was traveling in Vehicle #1 stated that her daughter released the steering wheel and would not respond as they were traveling south on Interstate 95. She stated that she then took control of the steering wheel and maneuvered Vehicle #1 from the center lane into the right shoulder, where it then collided into the metal guide rail. ..."
And this is where my two saviors appeared. On the last page of the Connecticut Uniform Police Crash Report were their names, Joe Manno and Janie Parks. 
I found them!!! I researched their phone number and left a message: "This is Bonni Brodnick. I was the person in the crashed car at the side of the highway on Easter morning. I wanted to let you know that I had a stroke and I'm alive. I also wanted you to know that you saved my life. I'm eternally grateful."
The next day, Joe and Janie called.

January 3, 2018

My New Year's Message: Gratitude

I’m so profoundly grateful to be here after my stroke -- which happened while DRIVING in the MIDDLE LANE of I-95. (A safe crash by my mother, who grabbed the wheel from the passenger seat and headed into the guardrail, was my initial savior, along with two Good Samaritans who stopped to help.) This followed by two hospital stays, lots of PT, OT, speech and an eventual pacemaker ... it's been quite a hike. 

But I’m here!! And thrilled to be spending this New Year’s eve with my favorite guy. Thank you all for the love and encouragement along the way. May your MMXVIII be filled-to-the-max with happiness + good health, 
peace ✌🏻 + love .

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