MENTOR, Ohio — Imagine being injured and isolated miles from help on a mountain in Alaska.
That was reality for one Tennessee woman, until a couple Northeast Ohio firefighters on a backpacking trip walked by.
It was the first day of a trip years in the making for four friends, three of them firefighter paramedics. They were set for days of backpacking through Denali in Alaska.
"We decided to prep before we did the actual backpacking portion, so that's why we went on a hike for the first day. We decided to go on Flattop Mountain," Mentor firefighter paramedic Rollin Pachinger said.
That's when they came across Janet Johnson on the ground and unable to move.
"We went over and asked if she needed help, turns out she'd fallen, lost her footing on some rocks and was unable to bare any weight on her ankle," Mentor-on-the-Lake firefighter paramedic Gabriel Ananea recalled.
What was an easy hike became a two-and-a-half-mile rescue mission down the mountain because Anchorage fire wasn't available and a helicopter rescue would've cost her about the same as a year of college, tuition, and room and board.
"We started giving her piggyback rides and we rotated between the four of us/. We all rotated carrying her down the mountain," Pachinger said.
They got to know Johnson on the way down.
She was in Alaska to scatter her husband's ashes in his requested resting spot: The Savage River in Denali National Park.
Having finished her mission and preparing to head home, she and a friend were on one last adventure and had gotten more than they bargained for.
That's when she prayed, saying, "Dear Lord Jesus I can't get off of this mountain! You will need to help me."
It took just minutes after that for Rollin Pachinger, Gabe Ananea, Bryan Brown and Jason Sorgen to offer help.
Johnson sent a letter to the Mentor Fire Chief about her rescue. It ended like this:
"These four guys on vacation from Mentor, Ohio were the angels Jesus sent to rescue me. I will forever be grateful for their kindness, gentleness and willingness to help a stranger."
Johnson's ankle was found to be broken in three different places and will require multiple surgeries.
As for her "angels," they went on to have a memorable rest of their backpacking adventure and came home to their boss already knowing about their Alaska rescue mission.
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