By Sgt. Anna-Marie Hizer, WVNG JFHQ Public Affairs Office
/ Published June 03, 2011
Charleston, W.Va. -- Friday the 13th was indeed a fateful day for a young college student driving home after a day of soaking up the southern West Virginia sun with a friend.
On the evening of Aug. 13, 2010, Tech. Sgt. Roy L. Akers, Jr., a civil engineer with the 130th Civil Engineering Squadron, 130th Airlift Wing, Charleston, W.Va., was driving home near Indian Creek after visiting his mother.
Akers said that he came around a turn, and saw several vehicles stopped in the road.
A car had wrecked, flipping four times, and landing on its roof near the side of the road.
The woman trapped inside needed help.
"People were running toward her car," Akers said. "The car was on its top and she was sitting inside the car on the ground."
He said that it didn't appear she had been wearing a seatbelt.
When Akers got closer to the vehicle, he noticed the woman's arm was gone--nearly to her shoulder.
That is when Tech. Sgt. Akers went to work.
"I said, 'We have to stop that bleeding right now,'" Akers said.
"I slid her out of her car and I just clamped right down," he said.
"I was looking right in her eyes; she kept saying she was sorry."
Akers said he tried to hide the remains of her arm, not knowing if she was aware it had been amputated, not wanting her to panic
Soon, others on the scene began to assist him.
"A lady came up. She was an EMT. She saw what I was dealing with and found a belt," he said.
In addition to the belt, another person called 9-1-1, while others searched the hillside for the arm.
Through it all, Akers kept pressure on the girl's wound and talked to her, trying to keep her alert.
"She said she thought she was going to die," he said. "I told her, 'No, you're not.'"
"She told me her name was Ashley, and I thought ,'oh God.' My daughter's name is Ashley," said Akers.
It took approximately 35 minutes for the ambulance to get to the accident scene.
Paramedics relieved Akers and tended to 24-year-old Ashley Parker, who was eventually taken to Pittsburgh for surgery.
Akers went home and prepared for a trip with his wife to their cabin. But he could not get Ashley off his mind.
"I just felt that I had to find out," he said. "Wednesday, after the accident, her mother called me."
"I do remember a man's voice," Parker said.
"I was leaving a friend's house. I don't remember getting in my car, I don't remember the car flipping, I don't remember losing my arm, but I do remember a man's voice," she said.
Parker also doesn't remember the 12-hour surgery she endured to reattach her arm.
Doctors kept her in an induced coma for six days while they performed nearly daily operations trying to make sure her limb was clean and circulation was functioning.
"I have had skin grafts, muscle grafts," she said. "The arm was found 30 feet behind the car in a ditch."
However, she said that one thing seemed to stay with her, even before she knew about Akers.
"Every time I went into surgery, I would see these [blue] eyes," she said. "His eyes. I know it sounds cliché, but it was like he was watching over me."
It took Parker nearly three weeks in the hospital before she realized how severe her injuries were.
She said family members were telling her about someone who had pulled her out of her wrecked vehicle.
"Having somebody that you don't know from Adam get out of their car and rescue you. . . ." she said. "He is my guardian angel."
After only a month in the hospital, and nearly 30 surgeries, Ashley went home.
It was then things set in motion for the two strangers, bonded by near tragedy, to meet.
"He left me a letter on my door," Parker said with a smile.
"He was excited I was home and well," she said.
When he first saw her, she was talking on her cell phone and all vivacious, Akers said, with a laugh.
Both said that their first meeting was overwhelming.
"I grabbed him and we hugged for like, 10 minutes." Parker said.
"I cried. He cried. The feeling was unexplainable--to have someone you don't know care that much about you."
The two now keep in regular contact. Parker updates Akers on her progress in physical therapy, and milestones such as being able to move her wrist again.
She also tells Akers about her brother, an Army Ranger currently deployed to Afghanistan.
Parker said that her brother can hardly wait to meet Akers (a former Army Ranger himself), and shake the hand of the man who saved his sister.
Parker's mother is also very thankful that Akers was on the road that day.
"My son is over there [in Afghanistan]," said Patricia Parker.
She had tried to put that out of her mind, never thinking the danger would be at home and involve her daughter.
Ashley said she will always think of Akers as family.
"I feel so blessed to have him in my life," she said.
She said, "His family, his mom, his kids--they're all a part of our life now. He's my hero."
The humble Akers looks at it differently, pointing out that his military training--both in the Army, and now the Air National Guard-- allowed him to act in the situation.
"You just react. I knew what to do," he said.
Akers said, "All I did was squeeze--she's the amazing one."
But for Ashley Parker, the West Virginia Air National Guard member who stopped along a winding road on a balmy Friday the 13th and squeezed her arm will forever hold a special place in her heart.
"If it wasn't for that man, I wouldn't be sitting here right now," Ashley said, as she fought off tears.
She said, "I can't thank him enough. I can't hug him enough, I can't tell him I love him enough."