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A stranger swung in to help when she slipped on ice. Now, she wants to pay it forward

When Lauren Passell slipped on the ice and broke her hip, a stranger stepped in and got her to the hospital.
Lauren Passell
When Lauren Passell slipped on the ice and broke her hip, a stranger stepped in and got her to the hospital.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


One cold morning in early 2015, Lauren Passell was on her way to work. She'd been training hard for an upcoming marathon, and was limping slightly from a pain in her hip. She figured it was nothing serious. But it turned out to be a hairline stress fracture.

So, when Passell slipped on the icy New York City sidewalk, she broke her hip. As she tried to get her bearings, a stranger emerged from the crowd and knelt beside her.

"All I remember is seeing her kind face, all bundled up, with a big hat and scarf," Passell recalled. "She pushed everyone out of the way and said, 'I've got this.'"

The woman introduced herself as Sharon Evans. As Evans helped Passell up, all Passell could think about was that she needed to get to work. But she was in terrible pain, and could barely stand. Seeing this, Evans told Passell to stay put while she called a cab.

"And I said, 'No, you don't have to do that. I'm sure you have places to be, please don't, I can do it.' And honestly, the second time she said, 'No, I'm getting you a cab' I thought, 'Oh, thank God. I don't think I can do this alone.'"

Once the cab arrived, Evans got in with her. Passell tried to tell her that it wasn't necessary. But Evans was persistent. Once again, Passel was secretly relieved to have Evans' company.

When the cab pulled up to the hospital, Evan's took charge again.

"She says, 'You know what, I'm going to go get the wheelchair for you and I'll wheel you in.' And I'm like, 'Please don't do that. You've done so much.' And in my head, I'm like, 'I hope she comes with me because I can't even sit up.'"

Evans didn't just go into the hospital with Passell. She helped her fill out the intake paperwork, and even took Passell to the bathroom. Each time, Passell tried to persuade Evans to leave, to get to work. And each time, Evans refused.

Once it was time for Passell to be seen by doctors, Evans left. It turned out that Passell's condition was serious. The doctors told her she needed to have an immediate operation — if not, she could have died due to complications from blood clots.

Passell not only recovered, but ran a half marathon the next year. She says she owes this, and so much more, to Evans.

"I might've died if Sharon hadn't shown so much kindness. So thank you, Sharon, for saving my life. And I hope one day I can pick someone off the sidewalk, just like you did for me."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brigid McCarthy
Autumn Barnes