In the early hours of Christmas Eve, as a powerful storm battered western New York with blinding blizzard conditions, a Buffalo woman acted when she saw a man caught in the storm.
Sha’Kyra Aughtry stated that she was at home when she heard screaming on her street. When she looked out her window, she saw a man in the freezing cold calling for help.
Aughtry’s boyfriend carried the man, 64-year-old Joe White, into the house, and she said in a Facebook livestream that she used a blow dryer to melt the ice off his red and blistered hands and a “grass cutter” to remove his rings.
No one responded when the Buffalo woman called 911 for assistance, she claimed. Aughtry, who has no background in medical care, became concerned for his safety.
She took to Facebook to tell her story and ask for help.
“I’m going crazy because I’m scared,” she admitted during the livestream. “I’m starting to see his body change too much from the time that I had him — his body has changed rapidly every hour.”
As the storm buried Buffalo in thick snow, emergency responders were unable to respond to calls for hours over the weekend, with ambulances and rescue crews becoming stuck in the snow, according to Erie County officials.
At least 31 weather-related deaths have been confirmed in New York’s Erie County, including one attributed to an EMS delay, according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
With no one coming to help, Aughtry said she was scared for White’s life.
“I contacted the National Guard. I dialed 911. I’ve called everyone, and all they keep saying is that I’m on a list. I don’t want to be included on a list “Aughtry stated this on her livestream. “Nothing else matters to me. This man is not going to die here.”
Her cries were eventually heard, she claimed.
Aughtry posted another Facebook livestream on Christmas Eve of her and a group of men transporting White to a hospital. “I’m in the car with him and some nice Samaritans that came and snowplowed us out,” she explained.
According to Aughtry, one of the men said he saw her first Facebook livestream and came over to help.
Aughtry can be seen reassuring White in the backseat of the car as they drive to the hospital.
“You’re doing an excellent job, Joe,” she said. “You’ve just got to breathe, right?”
Family says frostbitten man is recovering in hospital
White, who arrived at the hospital on Sunday night, is now recovering in the intensive care unit with fourth-degree frostbite, according to his sister Yvonne White.
“I’m hoping and praying for the best,” she explained.
Yvonne White described her older brother, who is developmentally disabled and lives in a group home, remembering her phone number as a “miracle” when Aughtry took him in.
Ray Barker, White’s employer, stated that White became disoriented after leaving his group’s home on Christmas Eve morning during the snowstorm.
Barker continued White may have believed he needed to go to work despite having the day off.
“He was in a mess,” Barker told CNN. “And (Aughtry) clearly saved his life.”
Aughtry, who White’s sister says now feels like family, was also thanked by White’s sister.
“We were all trying to help each other and it was wonderful,” she told CNN. “And now I feel like I have a sister and three nephews,” she said of Aughtry and her children.
Barker has known White for over 30 years and is the program director at North Park Theater, where he works. White has been with the theater since 1980, making him the longest-serving employee.
“The theater is really his whole life,” Barker told CNN.
“We’ve been worried sick about Joe,” Barker said. “We know that he’s getting good medical care at the moment and we can’t wait for him to get back to the theater.”
Aughtry and her boyfriend Trent were honored with a message on the theater’s marquee, and the theater started fundraisers for Aughtry and White, which have raised over $50,000.
“Thank you Sha’Kyra and Trent. Get well soon, Joe,” it reads.
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