LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — It was around 10 a.m. on May 7, and Ashley Pannell saw her bulldog Georgia Bea race out the front door into the front yard. Ashley ran out to retrieve Georgia and found something unexpected — a van had pulled into her driveway and the driver was shaking his head back and forth profusely.
Doug Reynolds, 63, of Lynchburg, a driver for Federated Auto Parts, had been driving up Virginia 151, en route to taking parts to Nellysford.
Ashley, a firefighter at the Rockfish Valley Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, knew something was wrong as she ran to open the man's car door.
"I asked him over and over again, 'Are you OK? What's going on?' He was trying to tell me but couldn't get the words out," she recalled.
Reynolds attempted to write down 'rescue squad' on a piece of paper.
That's when Ashley ran inside to find her mother, Julie Pannell, on the phone.
"I grabbed the phone out of her hand, hung up on whomever she was talking to and called 911," Ashley said. "I told them there was a man here having a possible stroke."
Julie knew exactly what her role was at this point.
"I sat with him the whole time and kept talking to him," she said. "I knew as long as he was talking, he had an airway and he was breathing."
Both Julie and Ashley were relieved Reynolds had chosen to pull into their driveway instead of another.
Julie is the current president of Rockfish Valley Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and served as an EMT and nurse in the past.
However, she has had Multiple Sclerosis for 20 years and now is confined to a wheelchair. MS is a disease that can cause deterioration of nerves in the brain, spinal cord and other areas of the body. In severe cases, someone with MS can lose the ability to walk or even speak.
"It was wonderful to be able to help him because I had to give up the rescue squad and the nursing because of the MS," Julie said. "But what I learned is always with me and I was able to use it."
Eventually, Reynolds was able to speak and informed Julie of medications he was taking and that he had had a heart attack in the past. She believes he had a "co-pilot" with him that day who directed him to their home.
Upon waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Ashley called Reynolds' wife and boss to inform them of the current state he was in.
"He was just lucky he was where he was at the time," his wife, Brenda Reynolds said later.
As they waited for help to arrive, Julie showed Reynolds something very special to her — a tattoo on her leg of the MS ribbon taking flight in the form of a butterfly. Underneath, the words "Never Give Up" are inscribed in black ink.
"No matter what, don't ever, ever give up," Julie remembers telling Reynolds.
"Everything happens for a reason, I truly believe that," Julie said later. "It's not a punishment that I am the way I am."
Within 15 minutes, an ambulance arrived and took Reynolds to the University of Virginia hospital in Charlottesville, where doctors determined that Reynolds was suffering from stage four brain and lung cancer.
"We came in the house and just looked at each other and said, 'that just happened," Ashley said. "We were in awe for a couple days."
Ashley and Julie have stayed in touch with Reynolds' boss to see how he is doing as he continues undergoing cancer treatments.
"It was quite an exciting day," Julie said. "We were truly just glad we were able to help him, and I hope he'll be able to make it through any of his future challenges."
Information from: The News & Advance, http://www.newsadvance.com/