HYANNIS, Mass. — How often do people see or hear something that could signal a potential danger, yet make the decision to ignore it because they could be mistaken, or worse, they don’t want to get involved?
It happens quite often actually, and the results could be as consequential as life or death.
A Cape Cod man is alive today and was able to spend Christmas with his family because an eighth-grader from St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School in Hyannis wasn’t one of those who chose to ignore what she perceived to be a dangerous situation; and in fact opted to indeed get involved.
Shortly before Christmas Jillian Woodbury and her dad were driving along Route 6A in East Sandwich when Jillian believed she saw a man lying by the side of the road.
It was about 4 p.m. and with dusk approaching visibility was becoming difficult. Jillian easily could have dismissed what she thought she saw and kept quiet — but she didn’t.
She told her father Robert what she felt she had seen. “I was in a panic,” she told The Anchor. “My dad didn’t believe me at first when I had told him there was someone there, but I was persistent because I knew we had to go back no matter what.”
Father and daughter did turn around and Jillian’s worst fears were realized. There was in fact a man lying unconscious in a snowbank.
Jillian’s involvement didn’t end there. “We were in shock,” said Jillian. “My dad told me to run to the fire station while he attempted CPR on the man. I ran as fast as I could since it would have been quicker than calling 911. The fire station was about a quarter of a mile away.”
According to the Sandwich Fire Department, it turned out that the unconscious individual had overdosed and “was minutes from death,” because of the overdose and hypothermia.
Within a few short minutes paramedics arrived and administered life-saving medication and quickly warmed the body to a safe temperature.
Jillian and her dad eventually left the scene no doubt shaken by what had happened, and they also did not know the victim’s condition. “We didn’t know the man was going to survive until the next day when we heard from a fire fighter that he was OK,” said Jillian. “We just kept praying for the man, and we had high hopes that he would be OK. When I heard that he lived, I was so happy that he was alive and could spend Christmas with his family.”
Sandwich Fire Department Fire Chief John J. Burke recently visited SFXP to present a Letter of Commendation to Jillian and a SFD hat and T-shirt.
Reading from the letter, Chief Burke said, “On behalf of the Sandwich Fire Department, I am writing to express our extreme appreciation to St. Francis eighth-grade student Jillian Woodbury for her intervention and notification of a medical emergency in the Town of Sandwich in December.
“Jillian’s quick reaction and notification allowed our ambulance which was one-quarter mile down the road to respond immediately and save the man’s life.”
Chief Burke went on to say, “We don’t know how long the man had been there but numerous cars went by and did not notice him. Due to Jillian’s quick actions this man’s life was saved and he was afforded the opportunity to spend the holidays with his family.
“In true St. Francis spirit, Jillian reacted with compassion and humanity and allowed for a great outcome of what could have been a tragic situation,” added Chief Burke. “Jillian is an excellent representative of St. Francis School and the core values that your school strives for.”
SFXP principal Elizabeth Kelley told The Anchor, “Jillian is new to the school this year, and she has stood out to us as a person who possesses honor, faithfulness, and integrity. She is kind and respectful to her classmates and teachers alike. As a student, she is a diligent worker who goes above and beyond in all that she does. We value her presence here and just recently honored her as our Student of the Week.
“We could not be more proud of Jillian, but knowing the kind of person she is, we are not surprised by her heroic actions. Jillian is a student who lives out her faith in all that she does. Because of her, a man was able to spend the holidays with his family. Her actions gave the man and his family a precious gift, and we are so happy the Jillian is the strong young woman that she is.”
Kelley said Jillian was named Student of the Week in early January. The announcement read in part: “The student whom the teachers and I have chosen for the week of January 6-January 10 is new to our school this year. Although it is often difficult to assimilate into this school in the seventh or eighth grade, this student has fit in very well both socially and academically. She has many friends and has consistently earned good grades. This student is also an excellent fit for our school Spiritually.
“We are proud to have a true Good Samaritan in our midst. It is my pleasure to name Jillian Woodbury as a Student of the Week!”
Jillian told The Anchor that the attention from her school and the SFD made her a bit “nervous.” But, she added, “Also at the same time, I was pretty proud of myself.”
When asked what she would say to someone who faces a decision to get involved, she said, “I would tell people to do it no matter what. Even if you are wrong, it is good to have the comfort of knowing that everything was fine, but if you were right, you could save somebody’s life.”
It could, and in this case it did.