The area of Buffalo, New York was hit with a brutal blizzard the week before Christmas. The roads were closed to pedestrian drivers, and even emergency personnel were getting stuck on the roads.
As Christmas Eve rolled around, the weather continued to get worse and everyone hunkered indoors for safety. Strangely, it was during those intense weather conditions when Sha’Kyra Aughtry heard cries for help outside her door.
She couldn’t imagine anyone would be outside, but she stepped out of her Buffalo, New York home to be sure and it’s a good thing she did – she ended up saving a life.
In the thick of the blizzard was 64-year-old Joe White, a mentally handicapped man who’d gotten trapped outside in the storm. He was screaming for help and in serious pain. Aughtry’s partner, Kent, managed to pick Joe, a total stranger, up in his arms and carry him into their home.
It was immediately clear that Joe was in bad shape when they found him. His hands were frozen solid and they used a hair dryer to help thaw them, but it wasn’t long before signs of gangrene started to develop. That serious condition means the affected tissue is dying and might have to be amputated if not treated immediately.
Aughtry called the National Guard and 911 for help, but she was told she was “on a list” and there was nothing they could do.
The next evening, desperate that help still hadn’t arrived, she took to Facebook live to share her story, begging someone, anyone, to please help this man.
“We gotta get some help. He has gangrene on his hands. He’s going to lose his fingers. I don’t know what else to do. I have fed him. I have bathed him,” she said in the video, which was filmed around 6:30pm on Christmas Day.
In a follow-up video, Aughtry shared her Facebook plea was met with action and a group of men showed up at her house in a pick-up truck. Despite driving bans and blizzard conditions, the men helped clear a path in the snow so they could carry Joe to the hospital.
You can watch both of her videos below, but trigger warning for graphic imagery. Joe’s frostbite is severe and she shows his hands on multiple occasions in the videos.
According to CNN, Mr. White’s sister, Yvonne White, confirmed that her brother is developmentally challenged and she believes he may have tried to walk to or from work during the blizzard and become disoriented. He’s been working at the same movie theater for some 40 years and is a very dedicated employee. Given his mental state, it’s likely he didn’t realize how severe the blizzard was and was just focused on making it to work.
Joe is now recovering in the ICU with fourth-degree frostbite, the most severe frostbite possible that includes the freezing of muscles, tendons, and bones. Yvonne shared that it’s not yet clear of Joey’s fingers and hands will be saved or not. Aside from his hands, Joe seems to be in stable condition, though he’s understandably shaken up from everything.
Joe’s employer, the North Park Theatre, has set up GoFundMe fundraisers to raise funds for both Joe and Sha’Kyra. To date, Joe’s fundraiser has pulled in more than $91,000 and Sha’Kyra’s fundraiser has raised over $163,000.
They also put Joe’s name up in lights on the theater board, along with a thank you message for Sha’Kyra. The billboard read, “Thank you Sha-Kyra & Trent, Get Well Soon Joe.”