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She nearly lost her life in a car wreck, but two strangers saved her life.


Time now for "My Unsung Hero," our series from the team at Hidden Brain. "My Unsung Hero" tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. Today's story comes from Laura Carstensen. In 1974, when she was 21, Laura went to a concert with some coworkers. When it was over, they all piled into cars for the ride home. She ended up in a van driven by a young man she did not know very well. It turned out he was intoxicated.

LAURA CARSTENSEN: And so we start driving on this country road, headed back to town, and he's weaving on the road. And I was asking him to slow down. And I remember putting my arm out on the dashboard to kind of brace. And then the next thing I remembered, I was laying on the side of the road outside of the van. The van had gone on to roll down an embankment, and I had apparently gone through the window. So I was laying on the side of the road and - I can't really imagine what I must have looked like, but I must have been a fright. There would be so much blood because of all the - the breaks and the severing of my femur.

And I don't know how long it was, but at some point, a big semi truck pulls up on the side of the road, and these two drivers came over and ask if they could help me. And I said, yeah, you know? And what I remember is they went back to the truck because I said I was so cold. I'm sure I was in shock, and I was just shaking. And they came over and laid a blanket down on me. And again, I remember thinking at the time, oh, you're going to ruin your blanket because you'll get blood on it. And they said, it's fine. And they put the blanket over me. And I just remembered feeling so incredibly grateful.

And I will never forget them. This is now 50 years ago. And I guess what I was touched by was that my being cold was the least of my troubles, but they cared enough to try to help that short-term challenge that I was facing at the moment. You know, it was a gentle, kind gesture. And I've always kept a blanket in my trunk ever since then, just in case.


KELLY: Laura Carstensen lives in California. After the accident, she ended up staying in the hospital for four months. She's had years of medical complications since then, but today she is grateful to be walking.

You can find more stories like this on the "My Unsung Hero" podcast. And to share the story of your unsung hero, visit for instructions on how to send a voice memo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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