When you work on the frontlines in healthcare, you’re really always on duty.
For Amy Gallagher, lead clinician at Natchaug Hospital’s Joshua Center Thames Valley in Norwich, that was never more apparent than on Thursday, April 12, 2018.
Gallagher was driving with her 16-year-old daughter on Interstate 91 in New Haven. Traveling on the historically congested section of highway, she was forced to slam on her breaks after the truck in front of her did the same to avoid an accident. A car immediately in front of the truck had spun out and came to an abrupt stop in front of the overpass.
“The truck drove off and we stopped. We were kind of shocked. My daughter thought it might be the person’s tires [that caused the crash]. I told her to call 911,” Gallagher said.
While her daughter called for help, Gallagher approached the driver’s side window to see if the driver, a young woman, was OK.
“She said she was OK. She was just a little dazed,” Gallagher said. “Then she got out and went in front of the car and put her head down on the overpass.”
The woman was trying to kill herself.
“She put her leg on top of the bridge and went to jump so I grabbed her and had her by the waist and she was just slipping,” Gallagher said. “It was like a scene from a movie, to the point where I literally had her by her two wrists and she was dangling off the bridge.”
Minutes later another car pulled over, two women got out, and along with Gallagher’s daughter helped to subdue the woman. Gallagher, who is eight months pregnant, had to back away because the woman was punching and flailing, and she was concerned about her baby.
“She continued to fight with us and was saying, ‘I just want to die. I just want to die,’ ” Gallagher said.
That’s when Gallagher’s social worker training kicked in.
“I just wanted to bring her back [mentally] to where we needed to be,” said Gallagher.
“First of all, I told her ‘I’m eight months pregnant. I can’t have you punch me in the stomach, and I’m not going to let you kill yourself in front of my daughter,’ ” Gallagher said.
That seemed to calm the woman a bit. She said she just wanted to die, but didn’t want to hurt anyone else, Gallagher said.
“I said, ‘I understand that. I hear you. But it’s not going to be today. There’s not anything that we can’t fix. We’re going to get you some help,’” Gallagher said.
After about 20 minutes of struggle and trying to calm the woman down, emergency workers arrived and took the woman to a local hospital. Gallagher was unharmed. Her daughter was a bit shaken.
“When we got home, she just started to cry,” Gallagher said. “She’s such a goal-oriented kid who wants to go into medicine as a career, so I know this will just reaffirm her desire to want to help people. I’m so proud of her.”
For Gallagher, there was never a second thought about what she had to do.
“It wasn’t really a decision for me. It was ‘just do it’,” said Gallagher. “I didn’t want commendation. It wasn’t about that. It’s really about me appreciating that God put me there at that very moment to help this young lady, and I would do it over and over again.”