GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) - As Patricia Tenney lay dying in the passenger seat of a wrecked Cadillac, she did exactly what she had done her whole life.
For one last time, Tenney, a retired nurse, put everyone else ahead of herself.
“Don’t worry about me,” she said. “Please check on my grandson. Please check on my daughter. Please check on my family.”
It’s a gift, Tenney’s daughter said, to know about those final moments.
Her family knows about them because, after more than a year of searching, they have found who comforted Tenney on Aug. 13, 2019, when she was involved in a wreck in Greenville County, more than 900 miles from her home in New Hampshire.
The Greenville News published an article last week, Aug. 24, about Tenney’s family’s search for whomever held her hand as she breathed her last breaths. After that article was published, two people came forward to The Greenville News and also spoke with Tenney’s daughter, Kimberly Favart.
“It’s a bittersweet gift,” Favart said. “It’s been a bitter year after losing my mother. But there is something sweet that we can take from what we have learned: No matter how bad things are in the world, there are still good and decent people – people who, without a second thought, will stop to help someone they don’t even know.”
The people who comforted Tenney are Brandon Moore and Matthew Farmer, both of whom live not far from the crash.
Moore, 34, was headed home from a baby shower. Farmer, 26, was in nursing school.
On that summer evening, Tenney’s family says, they were angels.
‘WE’VE GOT TO LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER’
Tenney’s daughter, Natalie Pakkala, was driving the Cadillac near the intersection of Locust Hill Road and Bulls Road that Tuesday evening of the crash. Shortly after 6 p.m., a pickup in another lane swerved to try to avoid hitting a vehicle that was stopped in traffic, according to Trooper Joe Hovis of the state Highway Patrol. In trying to miss the stopped vehicle, he slammed into the Cadillac. He was charged with driving left of center, Hovis said.
Pakkala, Tenney’s 12-year-old grandson and Tenney’s sister in the back seat all survived the injuries they suffered in the crash. Tenney was hurt worst.
Moore witnessed the crash.
His fiancée, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was in the car with him, and so were his two young children. They’d been at a baby shower to celebrate the impending arrival of their son.
“If things had been just a little bit different, we would have been the ones hit,” Moore said. “If my family was hurt like that, I hope someone would stop to help us. Do unto others, you know? So I jumped out to see if I could help. We’ve got to look out for each other.”
Moore does heating and air conditioning work for a living. He has basic first aid training, he said. He could see that Tenney, 75, was the most severely injured, he said. Her legs were broken and her pulse was irregular.
“She was banged up pretty bad,” Moore said. “There’s no way in hell she was not in pain. But she wanted me to check on the rest of her family, especially her grandson. I remember he had some blood on his face.”
Moments later, Farmer was headed to a Tuesday evening church service when he drove up on the crash and pulled over to help.
Farmer was a nursing student at Greenville Technical College, and at the time, still had about a year left in his studies.
“I came up to help and when I said I had some nursing training, the guy who had been helping Mrs. Tenney moved to the back to help Mrs. Tenney’s sister, who wasn’t hurt as bad,” Farmer said.
By that time, Tenney was struggling to breathe, Farmer said.
“I asked her what her name was and she told me,” Farmer said. “But I could tell she was really laboring.”
Tenney had chronic respiratory problems and used an oxygen-monitoring device even before the crash, according to her family.
“Her oxygen device had come apart and the battery was somewhere around the dashboard after the crash,” Farmer said.
“I kept asking her her name, trying to keep her engaged,” Farmer said. “I told her that 911 had been called and that help was on the way. But there was a point that she just had this fixed gaze and I knew things were bad.”
Soon thereafter, Favart, who had gotten a call from her family, arrived at the site of the wreck.
Favart had traveled with her mother to South Carolina from New Hampshire to visit family in this region but was not in the car when the crash occurred.
She was overwhelmed when she got there, she said, and in those few seconds, the only thing she knew was that the man who was with her mother disappeared.
Favart had one grainy photo of Farmer with her mother, which was taken just after the crash. She thought at first that he had been the only passerby to help Tenney.
But a few days ago, Moore’s family reached out to Favart and she realized that Moore had been the first person to offer help after the crash.
Favart has spoken by phone to Farmer and Moore. She said she hopes to meet them in person the next time she is in South Carolina.
“It was so healing for me just to be able to say thank you,” Favart said.
“Because of them, my mom was not alone, my family was not alone. That gives me peace. Brandon and Matthew showed that there is still good, pure kindness in the world. And I will always be grateful for that.”
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