A 12-year-old girl received a heroism award from the police department for calling 911 and parking a car when her mom had a seizure behind the wheel.
Melaniah Andrade, 12, saw that her mother Nicole Johnson wasn’t herself during a shopping trip to Target on the evening of September 29. “She kept picking up random things like a knife set and putting them in the cart,” Melaniah of Wasilla, Alaska tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I kept asking her why and she wouldn’t tell me.”
By the time the mother and daughter returned to the parking lot, the tween was feeling scared. “She kept staring at nothing and wasn’t really talking to me,” says Melaniah.
Johnson was having an “absence seizure” which the Mayo Clinic states involves “brief, sudden lapses of consciousness.” The 42-year-old single mom says she doesn’t recall what happened in the car but attributes the seizure to breast cancer, with which she was diagnosed 9 years ago, that’s metastasized to her brain. During the seizure, Johnson tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “I was on autopilot and not processing anything.”
After Johnson drove out of the parking lot, she alternated between speeds of 60 and 20 mph, says Melaniah, and when Johnson started calling her own daughter “Mom,” the tween called 911.
While Johnson drove, Melaniah gave the operator their address. In the 911 call obtained by local news station KTUU, the girl tearfully says, “...I’m not sure what’s going on...”
Melaniah turned on the hazard lights, as instructed by the operator, and Johnson turned onto a dead end street, accelerating toward a tree. The car then hit a patch of grass and Melaniah removed her mother’s foot from the pedal, putting the car into park and removing the keys from the ignition.
EMT workers and state troopers arrived and Johnson was hospitalized for three nights. “When I heard the 911 recording, I grasped how amazing Melaniah was in the situation,” the mom tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I also felt guilty.”
The following week, Alaska State Troopers gave Melaniah a plaque for her “outstanding efforts...in which you called 911 for a medical emergency while remaining calm.” And Melaniah received a basket filled with snow gear, gift cards, and a police coin and a sew-on badge.
Johnson says her daughter is “strong and independent” but all the attention has been slightly embarrassing for the tween. “It was scary and crazy,” Melaniah tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “and something we can all learn from.”
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10/22/19 UPDATE: Nicole Johnson tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she learned her breast cancer spread to her brain after the September 29 incident. This was her first seizure and doctors have not yet cleared her to drive a car.
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