By Ashley Stewart Herald Writer
EDMONDS — Shirley Morales made a wrong turn on her route when she saw in the flash of her headlights the woman in the ditch.
The Herald newspaper carrier was delivering papers with her 2-year-old about 5 a.m. Nov. 18. She didn’t know what to think until she heard the cries for help.
The woman was an 84-year-old who had wandered from her home late at night, tripped in the drainage ditch and broke her ankle, hip and arm. Morales grabbed the two blankets she kept in the car for her son, Damian, whom she calls her “little carrier,” and wrapped them around the woman.
“I was scared to move her, but I wanted her to keep warm. It was raining and she had just socks and a regular jacket,” Morales said. “She was trembling.”
Morales called her boyfriend, Gilberto Vera Lopez, who was delivering papers on a nearby route. He arrived and the Lynnwood couple called 911 and waited for the ambulance to arrive 11 minutes later.
Their actions helped save Catherine Joan Walsh, who was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Walsh was transferred Monday to a rehab facility in Edmonds.
“It was a Sunday. If it wasn’t for the newspaper carrier, God knows what would have happened,” said Pat Upton, Walsh’s daughter. “We are grateful that there are still people out there who will stop and do something to help someone else.”
After taking a wrong turn that morning, Morales decided to begin her route in the neighborhood she usually visits last when she found Walsh in the ditch.
Walsh was disoriented. She couldn’t remember what she was doing or how long she’d been outside, but told Morales that her arm and leg were broken.
Walsh couldn’t remember where she lived, but Morales told police that she knew an elderly woman lived a few houses down.
Though the two had never met, Morales left Walsh’s newspaper on the windowsill so that she wouldn’t have to walk out into the driveway to reach it.
“Mom had a guardian angel that night,” Upton said.
At Harborview, doctors said that if Walsh had been out there much longer that she would have been at risk for shock or hypothermia.
“Those blankets helped a lot. The trauma nurse at Harborview said mom wasn’t very cold, at least not as cold as he thought she’d be,” said Terry Walsh, 54, another Walsh daughter. “Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.”
Walsh lives alone and was mentally sound before the accident, Upton said. But she was taking an antibiotic that doctors said could have contributed to her confusion.
Her daughters are hopeful that she will fully recover.
Walsh’s daughters have been in touch with the carriers who saved their mom. So far, they have only spoken on the phone, but look forward to meeting one another when Walsh recovers.
“She made that wrong turn so she could find my mother,” Upton said.
Reporter Alejandro Dominguez contributed to this story.
Ashley Stewart: 425-339-3037; firstname.lastname@example.org.