Sitting in a car, head on the steering wheel, surrounded by a bunch of strangers and her precious little girl, Melissa September felt the moment where she thought her eyes would close for the last time.
“In that moment, I knew I was going to die,” says the 38-year-old. “And the scariest part of it all was that my daughter would watch it happen.”
However, Melissa’s guardian angels had other ideas.
For five years Melissa has had severe health issues that doctors haven’t been able to diagnose.
Feeling pains in her chest and struggling to breathe has become almost a daily routine for the South African-born woman, but on February 12 she had her worst experience yet.
“It felt like someone was pulling my ribs tighter and tighter,” she says, “then I got tingles up my arms and my body went lame - completely numb - and I was sweating profusely.”
That morning, while dropping her daughter Olivia off at Tauranga Primary School on Cameron Road, just before Maleme Street, she felt it - a rolling pain that subsided and then intensified.
“While I was driving, just before the roundabout, I could feel it starting to happen and it intensified very quickly.
“I pulled over and thought, let me just ride it out - when I feel better I will continue driving.”
But it didn’t subside. Gasping for air, she told her seven-year-old daughter to get out of the car and ask the man sitting in the car behind for help.
While she was slumped over the steering wheel, she managed with all her strength to knock on the window as well, and mouthed the words ‘help me’ to a man walking by.
“He opened up my sidedoor and called an ambulance while the gentleman from the car behind opened the passenger door and talked to me and my daughter, trying to keep her calm.
“I could feel that I was dying and this guy next to me was just telling me the whole time to breathe and focus on what he was saying.”
He even went to the extent of standing in front of the car window to stop the sun from beaming down on her.
When the ambulance arrived they both spoke to the emergency services and managed to take her out of the car and put her in an ambulance.
She says she remembers vividly what they did for her daughter and for her, but their faces remain blank in her mind.
“I keep going through it in my mind,” says Melissa. “I can remember what they did, but I can never remember what they look like. It’s so frustrating.
“Every time I drive past the spot, I’m hoping for the guy’s car to be parked there, but there’s nothing, absolutely nothing.”
She says she has tried talking to neighbours nearby and her daughter to see if she can remember what the man’s car looked like, but she always ends up at a loose end.
When The Weekend Sun asked what she would do if we found them, she says she would simply wrap her arms around them in a tight hug.
“I never got the opportunity to thank them for helping me and trying to keep my daughter calm, and that’s very unfair. I know I wouldn’t be here today without them, and I am forever grateful for what they did.”
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