Gord Price has been through tornadoes, hurricanes and flash floods, driven the famed ice road and rescued a man from a vehicle following a head-on crash, but coming to the aid of a Chemainus woman who he found unconscious on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway has changed his life, and now hers too, forever.
A seasoned truck driver for three decades, Price was the third big rig to leave the DCT Chambers Trucking yard in Chemainus shortly after 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning when he spotted something in the periphery of his headlights.
“I thought it was a blanket or a quilt. It just threw me right off and when I seen a hand and side of a face I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me,” Price told the Chronicle. “There’s that intuition where do you stop or don’t you because you’re kind of freaked out a little bit.”
The trucker, whose been quick to jump to the aid of others in the past, immediately pulled over to the side of the highway just north of River Road and got out his cellphone to dial 9-1-1.
As he started quickly making his way back up the dark section of highway, Price was also able to flag down a pickup truck who spun around and put its headlights onto an unconscious Patricia Galloway laying directly beside the cement barricade in only her white housecoat and a pair of shoes.
“I went to touch her and she was cold and then I went for the pulse and it was very light at first,” Price said, recounting how his first instinct was to wrap the woman in something warm and thankfully the pickup driver had a furniture pad handy.
Still on the phone to the 9-1-1 dispatch, Price, who is trained in CPR, called out to the woman to try and get a response.
“All of a sudden I looked down I started to see her eyes fluttering underneath her eyelids and that was the response I was looking for but there was no squeezing my hand, no talking and no opening the eyes,” he said.
All that Galloway remembers from earlier that night is opening the door of her home at Chemainus Gardens sometime after 10:30 p.m. to try and find her cat.
The 69-year-old great-grandmother was found two kilometres up the road and only a few steps away from a major tragedy.
“I really don’t remember too much of anything. It’s a bit overwhelming because all I did was go for a walkabout,” said Galloway who despite being told she likely suffered a minor stroke is finding the humor in the moment.
North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP attended River Road after reports of a woman out walking somewhere in the area.
“I vaguely remember telling someone in a car that I wanted to go for a walk but I don’t know where that was though,” Galloway added.
While all this was going on Price and the driver of the pickup where also able to wave down a third big rig from Marpole Transport to block traffic and control the area until emergency vehicles arrived.
“This all took maybe nine minutes but it felt a lot longer, trust me,” said Price.
BC Ambulance, Chemainus firefighters and RCMP arrived on scene and Galloway was placed onto a backboard and rushed to Cowichan General Hospital, but the story doesn’t end there.
“I woke up in the ambulance and was really cold and am sore today (Thursday), my shoulder, my hips, my wrist mostly,” Galloway said. “They think it was the stroke that affected part of my memory.”
Price, understandably, couldn’t quite shake the circumstances surrounding who this woman was, why she was lying on the side of the highway, and was she doing OK now thanks to his help.
An emotional meeting between Galloway and Price took place on Wednesday as the two immediately bonded and chatted before Price left for another night shift. Price’s own mother is also named Pat and is almost the age as Galloway too.
“All I wanted to do was give her a hug. I told her I’m just thankful that I found you; That I saved your life so you could get back on your feet and spend time with your daughters and grandkids and carry on with your life,” he said. “I have a big heart and I care for people and I’ve always been the one to pull my truck over to help somebody.”
In fact, a little over a decade ago Price was first on scene to a head-on crash near Laredo, Texas, where he put out a fire and rescued two people including a 19-year-old who was trapped inside one of the vehicles.
Now the trucker from Nanaimo is being heralded online by friends and strangers across Canada, and even as far south as Las Vegas, as a hero.
“I’m glad this came to a happy ending but I just can’t believe she was there three feet off the highway,” he said. “This was meant to happen. I was meant to find her. Somebody up there had a direction. I will take that on as being her guardian angel because I’m not going anywhere.”
On Thursday, Galloway and her daughter Linda Ockey enjoyed a coffee on the patio at home with Price as they recounted the events from only a few nights earlier.
“I’m just happy that he took a second look and stopped because it’s thanks to that that I’m alive today,” Galloway said. “I think he’s going to be in my life forever now.”
And if there’s any lessons to be learned, Price hopes that motorists are more aware of their surroundings.
“People need to be a little more open to looking around because you never know what you’re going to see and I just proved that,” he said. “There’s so many variables here that could have happened but they didn’t and she’s alive today because of all of that.”