Navy sailor helps save woman whose arm was severed in crash - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Navy sailor helps save woman whose arm was severed in crash

Jeff Atherton (Source: WMC Action News 5) Jeff Atherton (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Karen Lee, recovering in the hospital (Source: Friends) Karen Lee, recovering in the hospital (Source: Friends)
The medal Atherton received (Source: WMC Action News 5) The medal Atherton received (Source: WMC Action News 5)
WEST TENNESSEE (WMC) -

A Navy sailor is being hailed as a hero for helping save a woman’s life.

The medal Jeff Atherton received wasn’t from his actions on a ship or at shore—he was on the highway.

54-year-old Karen Lee was heading from her home in Thompson Station, Tennessee, when she was driving on I-40 and got into a crash.

Atherton was behind her car.

“I was driving home from work one day, and the car in front of me had run off the road,” Atherton said. “And the woman driving was ejected from the vehicle."

He said he quickly pulled over and found Lee unconscious. Her left arm was severed during the crash.

That’s when Jeff’s training as a sailor kicked in.

"I checked for a pulse,” he said. “She had one, but she wasn't breathing. I was with her for a few seconds, and she took a big, deep breath and opened her eyes and looked at me. And I just--all I could really do was to talk to her.”

Atherton and nurse Jackie Cooper pulled over to help keep Lee awake until first responders arrived.

Five weeks later, she is alive and on a painful road to recovery.

Lee’s friend Linda Johnson has not left her side since the accident.

“She wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Jeff,” Johnson said. “Jeff and a lady named Jackie also came to her rescue.”

Johnson said Lee’s arm is still very infected and surgeons have been forced to cut more tissue out every week.

“Friday, she's got to go back in and have some more cut back out again,” Johnson said. “We heard this morning she's got to have back surgery also.”

Although she has several more weeks in the hospital, they are grateful for the Good Samaritans who helped keep her alive.

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