Woman calls heroic rescue ‘common sense’
By BETH ALTENA
Emily Bouwens doesn’t remember what happened the day two strangers rescued her from behind the wheel of her vehicle by Walgreens on the East Beltline. She doesn’t even remember what happened the entire preceding two weeks, although the time included an anniversary. Last week the heroic incident was recognized in front of a crowd of hundreds at the Annual Kent County Awards Ceremony held at the Sheriff Department Mounted Division, 4687 Kroes NE, Rockford.
Emily said she had a medical condition that caused her to have a seizure after picking up a prescription at the drug store. She lost consciousness while her vehicle was in reverse and hit another car that was parked. Her SUV went into drive and struck several more cars, causing $9,000 in damage to her car, and according to the driver, moved his (wife’s) vehicle three parking spots. Her vehicle started out in the parking lot of Walgreens and ended up in the parking lot of Wendy’s.
Georgiana and Mirela Klem, sisters, witnessed the eratic driving while they were in their own vehicle nearby. Georgiana said at first they thought the driver was crazy, and the vehicle came dangerously close to their own. “We saw the car was out of control, I thought, ‘Don’t they know how to drive’ We were in our own car, waiting for her to stop.”
Georgiana said her sister said they had to call 911. “I’m such a scaredy cat. I thought I would start crying if I called, so I told Mirela to do it and I’d check on the driver,” Georgiana described. She could see the woman was in distress, and couldn’t tell if she was even breathing.
“It was a near life and death moment,” Georgiana said. She saw both the driver’s side and passenger’s side door were smashed, and thought about breaking the glass in. Then she noticed the sun roof was open. She climbed on top of the SUV, crawled in through the sun roof, put the car in park and turned off the ignition. She was able to roll down the window, her sister managed to pull the door open, and they dragged the unconscious driver out.
“We laid her on her left side so she wouldn’t choke on her saliva,” Georgiana stated. Waiting for the first responders to arrive, Georgiana found a prescription in the car and a wallet with ID. Emily had started to come around but was extremely disoriented, not even able to say what her name was.
All this happened August 22, 2016, and Emily and her rescuers have stayed in touch through Facebook.
“I thought at first it would be awkward,” Georgiana said of Emily getting in touch after her medical emergency. “She reached out, she couldn’t remember what happened. They kept up, learned about Emily’s progress and were shocked that Emily had initiated their being recognized in a special ceremony for citizen heroes at the awards ceremony May 4.
“Both Georgia and Mirela Klem put themselves in harm’s way, not only to help Ms. Bouwens but also to keep the people in the immediate area safe from this unpredictable situation,” reads the awards publication given out at the ceremony. “They were able to bravely step in and gain control of the situation so that no additional vehicles or people were struck by the vehicle.”
“It was heroic,” Emily said of the quick thinking sisters. “It was a God thing, if you ask me.” She said she will forever be grateful that perfect strangers reached out to her in her time of need, putting themselves at risk to help another. She believes their story is one that will inspire others.
“I thought after the incident, that would be it and we’d never hear from her again,” said Georgiana. She said she likes that they have kept in touch. She said she doesn’t see anything strange about what she did.
“I thought it was common sense, I am a person who works on common sense.” She said she has been in positions of authority before, a Resident Assistant in college and raised by a mother who is a nurse.
“I’ve always been a humanitarian at heart. I believe you can’t be blind to situations. It was scary, I’m thankful how it turned out. I’m a faithful person. I thank God or even an angel.”