MANHATTAN — A Brooklyn woman has put up posters in the Union Square and DeKalb Avenue subway stations this week looking for the good Samaritans who helped save her life when she was hit by a mysterious illness on the Q train.
“Attention Great Brooklynites,” reads the poster, which also bears a photo of a young, smiling woman.
“Were you here last Friday afternoon on the Q train to Brooklyn? Were you one of the kind people that helped me on the train or helped me get to the hospital from the train????” the poster continues. “If so, I am looking for you and am very interested in getting in touch with you!!!”
She put up the flier to try to track down a group of helpful strangers who came to her aid after she began struggling to breathe on the train and eventually lost consciousness.
The poster offers an email address, email@example.com, and Cassandra, the 25-year-old Park Slope resident in the photograph, hopes one of the people who helped her will notice her plea and reach out.
“It gives me goosebumps sometimes when I think of all the people who went out of their way to help me,” said Cassandra, who asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy. “I know I could have very well ended up with none of my personal belongings at the end of the train line.”
When Cassandra left work around 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24, she wasn’t feeling well. She recalled a nagging nausea and lightheadedness but nothing else that would prompt her to rethink heading home.
She took the 4/5 train down to Union Square, where she switched to the Q to Brooklyn. Then, just after the train passed through the Canal Street stop, Cassandra couldn’t breathe.
She assumed she was having an asthma attack and pulled out her inhaler. But she still couldn’t catch her breath. She looked around the crowded subway train and asked aloud if someone could spare her a seat.
“A few moments passed, and no one said anything,” recalled Cassandra, a married mother of three.
“I’d never seen that before,” she added, noting that when she was pregnant, she always had her pick of seats on the train. “There’s always someone willing to help.”
It took a few seconds, but someone did offer up a spot. A young girl patted an empty seat next to her, and Cassandra sat down, plunging her head between her knees.
A woman who called herself Adrian knelt beside Cassandra and tried to help with her inhaler, held her hand and told her she would be alright,
“At this point, it kind of quickly got bad,” Cassandra recalled. “Then I started really panicking.”
Cassandra said she lost feeling in her arms and couldn’t seem to control her neck. A man whose name she still doesn’t know, but who she’s taken to calling “John,” offered some water, which caused her to choke.
The Q train was crossing the Manhattan Bridge, when Cassandra said “John" called 911 and requested that paramedics meet the train when it pulled into the DeKalb Avenue station.
Fire officials confirmed that they received a call around that time, requesting assistance for a female subway passenger who was feeling faint and having difficulty breathing.
“The last thing I can remember is someone saying, 'She needs help getting off the train,'” Cassandra recalled.
She said she has pieced together the next part of the story from bits that were told to her after she regained consciousness inside the Brooklyn Hospital Center.
Her muscles began contracting, much like a seizure, and when the train pulled into the station, the paramedics weren’t there.
Officials would caution that those in need of emergency medical assistance wait for emergency crews to arrive. But “John" scooped her up and started climbing the steps out of the station.
Another man, who has since emailed her after spotting one of the posters, said he knew where the hospital was located and led the way. A different man, who contacted Cassandra on Thursday after seeing one of the fliers, called the hospital to let the staff there know Cassandra was coming.
When they reached the top of the stairs, the group of good Samaritans paused briefly, weighing which direction to go, Cassandra said. A man who was getting into his car near the subway station entrance asked where they were headed and offered to drive them the few blocks to the hospital. Everyone then piled in the car with Cassandra.
Doctors are still a bit baffled about what caused her frightening attack, Cassandra explained, although they believe it had something to do with her asthma.
“There were so many people who were coming and trying to help,” Cassandra said. “These are the people who not only saved my life but are inspiring people across this city.”
Cassandra said she has received a flurry of emails since her posters went up, but only two have been from some of the people who helped her that day.
“It’s inspired so many people,” Cassandra said.
“One girl even emailed me and said that she had lost hope ... and this had made her faithful in humanity again,” she added. “It really has taken on a life of its own that I really didn’t expect.”
But Cassandra still wants to find the man who carried her up all of those stairs and helped shepherd her to the hospital, the driver who offered his car and the woman who held her hand.
Cassandra said she wasn’t sure exactly how she would repay those who helped her this past Friday, but she at least wants the opportunity to speak to them and thank them for saving her life.