Miles for Men fundraiser Stephen Picton says he is lucky to be alive after he suffered a severe asthma attack while driving on the A19.
The 46-year-old taxi driver was driving home from Leeds in the early hours of Saturday morning when a coughing fit caused an asthma attack which left him unable to breathe.
The Hartlepool charity champion managed to pull in to a lay-by on the A19 at 2am where he flashed his lights at a wagon driver in the hope that he would help.
Recalling the ordeal, Mr Picton thanked the man he called his ‘guardian angel,’ saying he owed his life to driver Brian Mungwadzi from Stockton.
“I was at work coming back from Leeds up the A1 when I started to have an asthma attack,” he said.
“I haven’t had one in four years and just thought ‘I have to get off the A1.’
“I managed to get off the A1 onto the A19 and pulled in to the first lay-by. “I started flashing my lights at a wagon driver because he was about to leave.
“When I stepped out of the car I just hit the ground.
“I didn’t have the strength to pick myself up.
“The guy then jumped out of his wagon to help.
“I was wheezing on the ground and I couldn’t breathe and he phoned the ambulance.
“He loosened my clothes and covered me with coats to make sure I was comfortable and he wouldn’t let go of my hand.”
An ambulance arrived just 15 minuted later and took Mr Picton to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough where doctors managed to get his breathing under control before he was allowed to return him home.
While he was there the wagon driver passed on his details and following an emotional conversation, the pair now plan to meet up.
Mr Picton continued: “Ambulance crews told me that the wagon driver had saved my life.
“He even found out which hospital I was in and left his name and number so I phoned him.
“He just kept saying how sorry he was because he wasn’t going to stop, as someone had tried to rob him in a lay-by a few months ago.
“So he said that I had changed his mind about things.
“I just said although I was a genuine case, you have to be cautious and make sure you are safe before helping anybody else.
“I don’t think he realised he had, he was just saying how sorry for what had happened. “He has done me proud, he was my guardian angel.”
Milestone for Hartlepool chairty
The ordeal comes as Miles for Men celebrated its fifth birthday which has seen the organisation raised more than £250,000 for people in the town.
Founded by Micky Day in 2012, the last five years have been a ‘rollercoaster’ for the charity which raises funds to help Hartlepool families through illness, disabilities or hard times.
Members of the charity and its supporters came together to mark the milestone with a Christmas party at the Old Boys Rugby Club in Hartlepool.
Mr Day said he was incredibly proud of what the charity had managed to achieve and said it will continue to strive to help people in the town.
He said: “It is really big deal to us as we only ever thought that we were going to raise £5,000, but in five years we have managed to raise a quarter of a million pounds.
“We now have a family caravan in Crimdon for families to have respite from the Royal Victoria Infirmary and this year we have had kids from all over the country stay there.
“The last five years have been a rollercoaster for Miles for Men. “There has been a lot of hard work, but we have a great team who are all volunteers. “To raise more than £250,000 in five years from just a little group of people is amazing.” The core team is made up of Micky Day, Ritchie Griffiths; Stephen and Sandy Picton; Michelle and Phil Shield; Lee Wilmott; Kelly Pearson and Gill Kidson, along with Liz and Ralph.
Mr Day thanked the public and companies that have supported the charity, adding: “A big massive thank you goes to the Hartlepool people because they are with us every step of the way. “We are always there for people as much as we can to support them, but it would never be possible without the Hartlepool people who donate time after time so that we can do this.
“I am so proud of the fantastic team. “It is a great achievement to raise a quarter of a million pounds to make a difference to people’s lives by putting smiles on peoples faces, creating memories and supporting families.”