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Westfield Student Saves Neighbor

August 22, 2002

Andy Hrebenak, a junior at Westfield High School, was walking home from football practice when he saw his neighbor Darryl Edwards laying motionless on the ground. Edwards had been there or four hours after deciding to walk to a local 7-Eleven from his home.

Edwards, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1981, left his house in the Pleasant Valley subdivision at quarter to twelve, and he remembered that normally his walk to 7-Eleven would take forty minutes. He had not walked recently, but he in the past he had liked to walk the path with his two dogs. With Parkinson's disease, a condition that makes its victim lose control of their muscles and motor skills, the incapacitated Edwards felt like a prisoner in his own body. It was in part due to that cabin fever that Edwards decided to go outside that Tuesday, Aug. 13, a "Code Red" day according to the heat advisory.

There is a 150-yard field behind his house. "I was halfway across that field when I felt my legs getting weak and wobbly," Edwards said. "Something kept telling me, 'turn around and go home, fool!' But I didn't listen."

Edwards got halfway across a creek, and he stumbled on a rock. He stood still for three minutes. He took ten steps and felt his legs getting wobbly again. "I thought I would take a break," Edwards said. "So I sat down." To relax, he laid back to rest. "I laid there for fifteen minutes, then tried to get up, but I couldn't."

Nearby where he lay helpless, children were playing in a pool. He saw them from the ground, but he could not find the strength to yell for help. As time went by, Edwards had confidence that there would be someone who would come along the trail and see him.

At 4 p.m. Andy Hrebenak was walking home from football practice. "I didn't see him coming," Edwards said. "But I heard feet shuffling gravel and I couldn't turn around."

Hrebenak asked Edwards if he was okay, and if he needed any help. By now, Edwards' back hurt, he had nausea, thirst, and heat exhaustion. Andy Hrebenak soon alerted Darryl Edwards's son, Tony Edwards, and a friend Tim Tyson who drove his Jeep into the woods for the rescue. They loaded Darryl Edwards into the back of the Jeep, made a U-turn and drove across the creek to take Darryl back to his house. Darryl Edwards escaped the incident without any critical injuries.

"In an age when it seems most news is bad, along comes Andy Hrebanek, and it renews your faith in the human race."