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This single mom was alone at the hospital with her son. Then a familiar face appeared

Patricia Nieshoff and her son Edward, circa 2006.
Patricia Nieshoff
Patricia Nieshoff and her son Edward, circa 2006.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


Around midnight, in September of 2006, Patricia Nieshoff realized that something was very wrong with her three-year-old son, Edward. He was sleeping nearby, and she watched in shock as he moved his arms and legs around in an irregular way and then became unconscious. After trying to wake him up, with no success, she called 911.

"When everything pulled up — the ambulance and the fire engine — everyone was out in the street," Nieshoff recalled. Her neighbors were looking worried and gesturing "call me."

"But I was so focused on my son, I left the front door of the condo wide open, and my keys, my wallet, my phone — I left everything. I just got into the ambulance."

Once they got to the hospital, Nieshoff learned that Edward had experienced a grand mal seizure. The doctors whisked him away for a CAT scan, and she was left alone with her thoughts in the hospital room. She was a single mom, with no family nearby, and she was scared.

"I sat there and I thought, 'What am I going to do?'" she said. "I was feeling pretty alone."

And then, less than an hour later, a familiar face appeared at the door.

"It was Chris, the father of the kids across the street," Nieshoff said.

After the ambulance left, her neighbor had noticed that the front door of her condo was left open. He had gone inside, picked up her wallet, keys and phone, and then locked the door. He had even grabbed one of her son's stuffed animals, to comfort him. Then he had called all the local hospitals to find out where she was.

"I practically flung myself at his legs and dissolved into tears," Nieshoff said. "I kept saying, 'You can go.' But the tone was, 'Please don't leave me here alone.' And he didn't."

Chris stayed through the night, and drove them home early the next morning. Over the years, she has thought a lot about his extraordinary gesture of kindness, and about the moment she asked him what drove him to help.

"At some point during the night, I asked him, 'Why? Why did you come?'" Nieshoff recalled. "And he said, 'Long ago, I was not there for someone. And I told myself if there was a chance to be there for someone in the future, then I would do it.'"

"And he absolutely did," she said. "And I'm immensely grateful that people like Chris exist in the world."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Brigid McCarthy