UPDATE 5.22.18: NOT INCLUDED IN THE FOLLOWING IS THE FACT THAT I DID CALL PROPER AUTHORITIES INCLUDING LOCAL POLICE AND INFORMED OUR SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION AS A MANDATED REPORTER.
Dear Local Mom Passed Out on the Off Ramp,
When I came upon your car yesterday afternoon on the southbound exit, I noticed your head slumped down. There was a large truck behind you, and the light was red again which told me you had slept through one round of red light green light at least. Not sure where you were coming from, but MY CHILDREN and I were driving back from swimming lessons in Plymouth. They were very excited about their upcoming spring concert in just an hour or so, as I’m sure yours were as our children attend the same school, when I pulled over to the side of the off ramp and told them NOT to get out of the car for any reason. There was a lady who needed my help, and that lady was you.
First, I knocked on the passenger window, but you did not wake up. I went around to the drivers’ side, and I wondered if you had stopped breathing. I opened your door, reached in and shook you, HARD, yelling my version of “Annie, Annie, are you okay?” from my repeated years of CPR First Aid training. When you were clearly NOT okay. The truck driver behind you got out of his rig and came over to find out why you weren’t moving your vehicle forward. Cars had started to back up behind us, yet you would not wake up. Another mom exited her vehicle and came to assist. I shook and I yelled and I was about to check your pulse when you suddenly came to, mumbling and slurring your words. You clearly had no idea where you were and told me that your honey was behind you.
I looked at the kind truck driver standing next me and inquired to their relationship. He put his hands in the air as if to say, “No, no, we are not together.”
“You should get out of the vehicle, and I’ll drive it over to the visitors’ center and we can call someone to come get you.” This seemed like the right thing for me to say to you in the moment, despite the fact my adrenaline rush being worried you were dead was now turning into being bullshit because you were alive and clearly impaired and realizing you had been DRIVING YOUR CAR just a little ahead of me DRIVING MY CAR with my children in tow. Your children were not in your car, and for that I was relieved.
“No, no, baby, thank you,” you said, “I’m okay, really, I just need to get home.” You tried to focus your eyes on what was happening as if to figure out where you were in regard to home.
“No, really, you are not okay to drive,” I insisted, “Please get out of the vehicle and we can call someone for you.”
“Baby, baby, I’m okay, I just need to get home to my kids.” Maybe you recognized me as being a teacher at the school. Maybe you had seen me around town. I wondered if I should have reached in and pulled you out of the car. I wondered if I should have taken your keys out of the ignition. I’d always been told never to touch someone who was in an altered state, and I’m a mom with kids in her car parked on the other side of the off ramp. They didn’t need to see me be driven over or, God forbid, shot at if you had some kind of weapon in the car I couldn’t see.
Then, you closed the car door, thanked me one more time, and drove away. The truck driver hopped in his cab, and the other mom and I stared in disbelief that you just drove away. How could you just have driven away?
I got in my car, pretty shaken up, and my kids asked what was wrong with you. I told them that you must have had a very long and hard day at work because you had fallen asleep at the red light.
“Mom, we watched you shake her and she didn’t wake up for a really long time.”
“Yup, she must have been really tired.”
I pulled over in the old IGA parking lot to call the police to make sure someone checked on you. You were headed to Lincoln. I thought about following you home, but, honestly, I didn’t want to be anywhere near your car with my children in mine. I hoped you made it home without hurting yourself or anyone else. But then, later, I learned you did make it home because I saw you at our children’s concert. You walked right by me and we made eye contact. But there was not one spark of recognition as if maybe you didn’t remember me waking you up on the Exit 32 off ramp of Interstate 93. I didn’t see a needle in your arm, but maybe you have a different addiction. Maybe you are just being treated for a specific condition. Maybe a diabetic reaction? But if you had a serious medical condition, maybe a bracelet? One thing is for sure, no one just falls asleep that hard, so impossibly difficult to wake up, at a red light at 5 pm on a highway off ramp. You need help. I hope someone reads this and thinks, “Hey, this might be _____________” and helps you to get some help. Maybe you will read this and wonder, “Was that me? Could that have been me?”
There are people and places to help you. You are a mom, and your kids are pretty great. I am a mom, and a wife, and someone’s daughter, sister, friend– and my kids are pretty great too, and, well, I’m just happy you didn’t kill us last night, in your impaired state, on Interstate 93 when we were both headed north towards Exit 32 at the same time.
The lady who woke you up last night driving her kids home from swim lessons.
PS. Thank you also to the truck driver and other mom who stopped and got out of their vehicles to make sure you were alive too.
12 thoughts on “For the Mom Passed Out Behind the Wheel on the Exit 32 Off Ramp”
My heart aches for this woman!!! As an opiate addict in long term recovery I know fully well how this could have been me over four years ago. The drugs are just too powerful and they change you into somebody completely different than how you were pre-addiction. Your article is compassionate without direct shaming and I love that! Thank you for helping her (and the rest of the public) as much as you could. I really hope she can find the courage to admit she has a problem and ask for help. The stigma associated with addiction is so thick that it keeps so many from asking for help. And even then finding good, and readily available, treatment in NH is not easy whatsoever. The saddest part is that this epidemic was created by man, and fueled by profit. I could go on and on but I just wanted you to know that your article was so touching. Thank you 💗
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Thank you for sharing your story here, and, yes, we need more resources. Heartbreaking on many lessons. Thanks for sharing the hopeful part too…
Just wanted to say thank you again for your comment. This blog has received a fair share of criticism, which has me thinking I’ll probably never write about any kind of sensitive subject again! But JJ Bujeaud reminded me of your comment being the kind I need to remember in the long term. So thank you! And if you ever want to share more of your story with young people- please let me know! My school email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you are local and want to help me to do a follow up interview that could help others. Tracy Shamberger at the Bridge Project would help too I’m sure. Thank you!
I’m glad she didn’t hurt anyone
As a teacher you are a mandated reporter. Although her kids weren’t with her maybe it would be worth a phone call? Could be screened out but could get her some help.
Thank you, Pat. Yes, I should go back to revise and add that I did contact the appropriate channels as a mandated reporter.
Hi Heather, I did see that you contacted your school administrator but your legal obligation as a mandated reporter is to call DCF yourself. If you have any questions about that, you can contact 800-649-5285. You may have oversimplified for the piece but I wanted you to know. I can’t imagine going through this.
Thank you for your action on the exit 32 in Woodstock. Your actions were commendable and as you stated a lot of thoughts were going through your head. Your concern about the driver, your children, others that were there. Your concern about what actions that you could take were also realistic in today’s society and what could happen if you did.
While , my recommendation is to immediately call the police to assist. I know personally both Woodstock and Lincoln would have responded and handled the situation. While you did eventually call Lincoln since the car was going in that directions, it would have been best if it could have been dealt with there, rather then see the driver continue to drive her car in the condition it is in. Unfortunately, during these incidents, a lot occurs in a few minutes and afterwards we think of what we should have done. However you desire to help is the most commendable things about the situation
While I am 3,000 miles away, I follow what is occurring in my community and will follow up to see what action was taken by the dept
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Thanks Chief Smith. I wish I had called while on the side of the road or had one of the other people call who stopped.This is part of the reason for the blog— this is probably not the last time regular people (not actual first responders) will come across scenes like that one. Thank you for your comment, and thank you for the work you and other emergency personnel do daily. I’ll know better what to do next time.
Thank you for your words on this subject. It is a tough one. I want to feel for the addict, but this makes my blood boil instead. Not only is her addiction affecting her and her family, but now she is affecting anyone who drives the roads anywhere near her. This is selfish and scary! My family is my world to me, and how dare anyone (drunk, high , whatever) be so selfish as to endanger the lives of others . My family, my friends, my fellow Lin-woodites . How dare they hold their addiction above the lives of members in our communities . Don’t get me wrong, I feel terrible that they are at this place in their life, although I do not understand it and probably never will.
If you know you have ever driven in this state of mind or condition, GET HELP! Not just help because you care about yourself and your family, but help because you care about the rest of us, and how your addiction affects everyone else every day.
It should be noted that the chief in his comment said that it would have been better to call the PD at the scene of the incident rather than let her continue to drive her car in the condition it is in…..implying it may have been an issue with the car and not necessarily the driver. Either way PD is better equipped to assess the situation and get the correct help , whether it be medical or mechanical. It sounded like there may have been an exhaust leak in the car which could knock someone out also.
Typing on a phone from 3000 miles away is difficult. Based on the narrative, I was referring to the driver. Regardless of reason , medical, tired, or self induced the car should not be moved by the driver.
Sorry if my narrative seem to refer more to the car then driver.