MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What do you say to the stranger who saved your life? That was the question running through the mind of a Chaska man on his way to meet her for the first time Tuesday night.

Last year, Steve Smith suffered a heart attack while driving on Highway 169. Just six cars behind him, however, happened to be a Minnesota Department of Transportation highway helper truck.

In video provided by MnDOT’s Traffic Management Team, the driver is seen using a defibrillator to save Smith’s life.

Both Julie Todora and a volunteer firefighter pulled over to help and after several rounds of CPR, Smith’s pulse returned.

“I didn’t expect that shock button to be delivering a shock of that force. I mean, his arms and everything, went off the pavement. It surprised me a bit as well,” said Todora.

Tadora has 13 years under her belt as a MnDOT FIRST driver. This was the first time she ever pushed the shock button.

It was Todora’s idea to meet Steve Smith. This time, the right way.

The two reunited with a big hug. “You look good,” Todora said.

After 20 minutes of catching up, came more hugs.

“The difference between heroes and non-heroes are that heroes are just courageous a couple more minutes,” Smith said. “There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t think about what happened.”

While some would say it was a couple courageous minutes that saved Smith, Todora and Smith point to a bigger reason: fate.

“It was a very cold morning. When we were working on you, it was a peaceful, warm feeling around us, we knew you were just going to be OK,” Todora said.

Smith was rescued only 11 days before his daughter’s wedding.

“He said we didn’t think we were gonna make it, but we did. The first dance, we did it slow, but we did it,” said his daughter, Jami Lemire.

That dance is not taken for granted.

Freeway Incident Response Safety Team trucks already have extra gas, jumper cables and tow rope, but WCCO-TV learned Tuesday night that this incident also inspired them to have more medical devices on hand.

Comments (7)
  1. Pavel says:

    A wonderful true story. A second chance at life! She deserves a medal.

  2. God is real says:

    She was able to connect with another Life source that some of us have been blessed to experience. Once you experience it, there is No doubt of a Superior being, we cannot see.

  3. just sayin says:

    A remarkable woman, she is definitely a hero.

  4. kl says:

    Wow! Great to hear a positive story. A hero indeed…

  5. mel says:

    What a great way to start my day. Thank you for a happy news story!

  6. Carol says:

    The FIRST drivers (highway helpers) are a great bunch of people! They’re doing their job but it’s such an important one, and it’s VERY much appreciated!

  7. Carrie says:

    I was stuck on the side of the road with a blown tire. Then a FIRST driver came by and put my doughnut on for me. It was such a relief to see his truck come up behind my car. Who knows how long it would have taken a tow truck to get there. It is a much smaller incidents than what this amazing woman did. But that FIRST driver was also a hero to me that day. They all do an amazing job everyday!

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