LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Two North Lakeland Elementary School students are being hailed as heroes after they helped their ailing grandmother, by driving a car when she had a medial emergency while behind the wheel.
Darrell Kennedy is a fourth grader and his sister Ahnlyse, a first grader, were able to drive through down very busy Florida Avenue and navigate the car safely without anyone getting hurt.
“We made it through two blocks and my grandma she looked like she was sleeping, but she was on the side of the road,” Darrell said.
This is what happened according to the Polk County School District:
“On June 6, Darrell, who was 8 at the time, and Anhlyse, who was 6 at the time, were with their 67-year-old grandmother while mom was working. Shortly after noon, mom received a call from Anhlyse saying that Mema had fallen and they were going to the store to get her a cane. Approximately 30 minutes later, she receives another call but this time it’s a paramedic and they ask her what her relationship was to Gloria Jackson or Mema.
The paramedic explained that her mother was showing signs of possibly having had a stroke and was being taken to the hospital. He also said that the children would be remaining with the staff at the Wood Spring Suites until mom could arrive to pick them up.
Mom spoke with the children briefly and assured them she was on the way. As they started to grasp what was happening, they began to cry asked if their Mema was going to be alright? Mom said, ‘I told them yes, she was going to be OK.’
When mom finally arrived at the hotel, the ambulance was just departing to take her mother to the hospital.
‘I gathered up my babies and quickly thanked the staff for looking after them and for all their help. The children began to sob again as we all get into the car and head to the hospital and they began to tell me the story.’
Darrell started at the beginning and said that Mema was laying in bed and tried to reach her cellphone and fell on the floor. He and his sister tried to help her up and she was saying “let’s go get something to…..” and the remainder of the sentence was gibberish.
They asked her if they should call for help and they still couldn’t understand her. Some time passed, they weren’t sure how long but they continued to “get ready” and she finally said they were going to get something to eat. As they exited the front door, Mema’s knees buckled and she fell backward. Again they got Mema to her feet and into the car.
Mema managed to drive maybe 100 feet to the first stop sign, which was Denice Avenue and N. Florida Avenue and then she asked Darrell to come up into the front seat, which she never allows.
“We got in the road and we missed a turn and the people behind me started honking the horn and my brother put his hand out the window and said stop and they couldn’t hear him and so he was driving,” Ahnlyse said.
They continued to travel north on N. Florida Avenue and he noticed that Mema was all over the road and when he looked over at her, she looked like she was asleep. By the grace of God, they drove safely through the intersection of N. Florida Avenue and Robson Street without stopping and without incident. The car continued northbound and now other cars were honking at them as they drove, slowly, approximately 19 mph (Darrell said he looked at the speedometer).
Darrell reached his hands out the window in a waving motion trying to get someone’s attention to tell them that his Mema wasn’t feeling well but it didn’t help. He did the next best thing he knew to do. He instructs his little sister to get up front and had her sit to the right of the driver’s seat next to Mema. The two were trying to help their grandmother drive by putting his hands on the steering wheel and pressing the gas and break pedals. They went through the next intersection which was N. Florida and Carpenters Way. They tried to get Mema to turn but she didn’t.
They barely missed colliding with two cars before they were finally able to steer the car into the parking lot of the Wood Springs Suite Lakeland parking lot, running into the curb in the process.
A maintenance worker noticed them and came to see if they were OK and that’s when Darrell and Anhlyse said they needed help for their Mema and paramedics arrived shortly afterward. They provided the necessary information about their Mema’s name for emergency workers at the scene, and once they were at the hospital, the children retold the story to the doctors and nurses in order for them to develop a timeline and determine proper protocol and best medications to reverse the effects of the stroke. Their ability to do so was crucial is their Mema’s treatment and recovery.
“You know as a single mother you just wonder are you raising your kids right and when God gives you that confirmation… that just keep going.,. keep doing what you’re doing,” mom Alicia Kennedy said.
The story of the two little kids and their grandmother spread throughout the hospital with so many people asking to meet them.
Kennedy was also going through her mother’s phone at the hospital and discovered that sometime during the ordeal Darrell had also googled “How To Drive A Stick Shift” even thought the car was an automatic.
Two days later, Mema was discharged from the hospital and she is continuing to recover, all because these two young ones found a way to figure out what to do and then did the right thing.”
The two children were recently honored by Lakeland Police.
“Very proud… very proud and blessed to be their mother,” Alicia Kennedy said.