The 19F pulls out of the garage everyday like clockwork – picking up and dropping off down Cherry street, Sylvania avenue and Franklin Park mall.
Tuesday, the 19 was Kristen Sowell’s route. It was a normal day; a chance to catch up with some of her regular passengers, like Gordon, also known as ‘Butch’ to his friends.
“We know each other on a first name basis,” Kristen said. “He gets on the same spot everyday and he’s usually going to see his grand-baby, somedays he’s going fishing. This time he was going to see his granddaughter.”
Like they normally would, Kristen and Gordon talked about what they did over the weekend, which for the 72-year-old included his birthday celebration.
“I feel great for being 72,” Kristen recalled him saying. It was during their conversation that she noticed something was off. In the middle of a sentence, Gordon stopped talking and dazed off.
“He just stared at me. Just stared directly at me.”Kristen Sowell
Kristen pulled over to check on him and while she says he was talking, he wasn’t acting like himself. And even though he insisted he didn’t need to go to the hospital, Kristen listened to her instinct and made the call to TARTA dispatch for help.
“I don’t even know how I knew anything was wrong… usually he’s standing up front and talking my ear off,” Sowell said.
The Toledo Fire and Rescue Department answered the call and determined Gordon likely had a stroke and took him to the hospital.
Still shaken and concerned for his well-being, Kristen says it was hard to watch him go through that, but she’s grateful she could be there for him when he needed it most.
“I’m glad that I was put there, and he was put there, and he got on my bus.”
Was it fate? The result of TARTA training? Maybe it was a little bit of both. Either way, Kristen says she believes a higher power was at work that day.
“I feel like I saw placed there and he was placed there, and we were meant to talk, meant to communicate and meant to be on a friendly-enough basis for me to notice,” she adds.
Kristen’s quick thinking and compassion doesn’t come as a surprise to her co-workers and supervisors.
“We are very proud of Kristen,” Tom Metzger, superintendent of transportation said. “She has always been an employee who gets to know and care for her passengers! This is a prime example.”
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