Disabled man rescued by stranger in Buffalo blizzard

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At 7:30 on Christmas Eve, Yvonne White received a call from an unknown number.

“Hello. You don’t know me, but I have your brother,” said a shaky voice on the other end of the line.

It was Buffalo resident Shakira Augie who had rescued Wyatt’s brother Joey during the deadly winter storm that had swept through western New York days earlier.

Joey White, 64, is mentally disabled, his sister said. She called him just before the storm, sternly telling him not to leave the group home where he lives. He promised her to stay.

But when Buffalo’s biggest blizzard in 50 years rocked the city, Joey White, who also goes by Joe, went outside.

It’s not clear what time Joey White left home or for what purpose, Yvonne White said, but she suspects he walked about nine miles to the North Park Theater, a single-screen movie theater where he has worked as a janitor since 1980. She believes he got it. got scared and spent the night in there and finally decided to go back home.

Joey White’s employer, Ray Barker, director of programming at the North Park Theater, also called him on Dec. 22 before the blizzard began, telling him not to come to work.

“I think it’s hard for someone who’s used to being a role model not to fall into that pattern,” Barker said, explaining that Joey White still came to work during the pandemic when the theater was closed. “Joe is used to his model.”

On Dec. 24, around 6:30 a.m., Joey White ended up in a snowbank under normal conditions, right outside the Ogtri home, which is about a seven-minute drive from the theater. He wailed and cried in agony, Ogtri told Yvonne White.

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Augtry, who did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment, heard the stranger scream and found him outside, completely disoriented. She rode into the storm with her boyfriend, and they brought Joy White into their home, Yvonne White said.

Joey White showed signs of severe frostbite. Ogrey told Yvonne White that she used a hair dryer to rip off his clothing, which clung tightly to his shivering body. She also cut off his frozen socks and removed the remains of a grocery bag stuck to Joey White’s hands. Ogrey sent Yvonne White photos of her brother’s skin, which looks badly swollen and covered in multicolored blisters and sores.

After about an hour of trying to warm him up, Ogrey — mother of three boys, ages 5, 6 and 13 — called Yvonne White. Joey White had memorized his sister’s phone number.

“The simple fact that he remembered my phone number is the number one miracle,” said Yvonne White, 60, adding that since then she and Augrie have been in constant contact.

Yvonne White said hearing about her brother’s condition was “simply heartbreaking,” especially since she had no way to get there to help because she lived about 20 miles away and the roads were covered in ice and snow.

“Shakira told me he was literally frozen,” Yvonne White said. “She covered him, she did everything for this man. She washed his clothes, bathed him, fed him.”

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However, despite everything Ogtri had done to treat his wounds, he was in urgent need of medical attention. However, getting help was seemingly impossible.

“We called 911 easily 100 times,” Yvonne White said. “We tried everything.”

“The blizzard affected all the emergency services,” Barker said, adding that Ogtri also contacted the theater to update staff on Joey White’s condition. “We are worried about him.”

“We broke down and cried,” Yvonne White said. “It just got worse and worse.”

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In a desperate cry for help on Dec. 25 — one full day after Joy White appeared outside her home — Augrie posted a live video on Facebook that was widely viewed.

“I’ve been very private and sensitive about this situation,” said Ogitria, who explained the crisis, adding that she had exhausted all options for medical treatment. “I literally called everyone under the sun.”

“I’m asking for help from anyone,” she continued. “This man needs serious help.”

Yvonne White also posted a plea on a local Facebook group, and within half an hour countless neighbors offered to help, with several arriving to plow through Ogre’s home. They wrapped Joey White in a warm blanket and carefully transported him to Erie County Medical Center. Augtrius accompanied him on the journey.

“I’m so glad you all came,” Ogtri said in the video.

“I’m right here. You okay?” she comforted Joey White on the way to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with fourth-degree frostbite. “Nothing will happen. Just breathe.”

The story was first shared by local news organization Sweet Buffalo and then surfaced on social media. Staff at North Park Theater set up GoFundMe pages for both Joey White and Ogutree.

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He’s being treated in a trauma unit, and “the doctor who sees him won’t know how he’s going to make it until it’s time,” Barker said. “We really hope they don’t have to amputate any of his fingers.”

Most of all, though, Barker is thankful that Joey White, who he described as a “gentle soul” with strong ethics and a love of sports (especially baseball), is alive. He owed it all to Augitry, he said.

“This kind woman came out and heard a man in deep trouble and did something about it that most people today wouldn’t necessarily do,” he said, adding that the theater plans to do something to honor Ogtree. . “She saved his life.”

“Her act was an act of kindness, an act of charity, an act of empathy, it was an act of caring,” Barker continued. “Joe won’t be able to fully express his gratitude, but he will feel it emotionally.”

Yvonne White is also overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that her big brother is safe.

“This stranger opened her heart and opened her home,” said Yvonne White, who is asking people to send her brother get-well cards to comfort him during his hospital stay. “I can’t wait to hug him.”

For a number of reasons, this was far from the celebration she had hoped for, but in the midst of suffering and adversity, Yvonne White found a silver lining.

“I feel like Joey and I now have a sister, a brother and three nephews,” she said. “It was such a Christmas miracle.”


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