As It Happens

Stories worth saving: 6 tales of peril and rescue from 2019

In the face of grave danger, these 2019 As It Happens guests came to the rescue — or owe their lives to those who did.

From a health scare to a near miss on a train platform, these interviews had our hearts pumping

Clockwise from top left: Paul Jones with his rescuers Jakob Thornton and Nolan Johnston, bone marrow recipient Susan Doherty, heart attack survivor Earl Kiley and his partner Janet Bousquet, Bay Area Rapid Transit supervisor John O'Connor, upskirting victim Gina Martin and Stellar the dog. (Chris Lekakis, Terry Chea/The Associated Press, Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

A new year is always especially sweet for those who weren't necessarily sure they'd see it.

That includes the many people who appeared on CBC Radio's As It Happens to share their stories of surviving health scares, accidents and other near-misses in 2019. 

From a mountain-climbing dog to a tough-as-nails nonagenarian, these are stories worth remembering.

Man, 90, survives 3 days in the bush on nothing but water and cashews 

Jakob Thornton, left, Paul Jones, centre, and Nolan Johnston, right, meet at Pender Harbour Elementary-Secondary School in October 2019. (Chris Lekakis)

Paul Jones, 90, was out for a drive in October in the back country along B.C.'s Sunshine Coast when his car got stuck.

Jones was left sitting in the precariously perched vehicle for three days, with only a bottle of water and a jar of cashews to sustain him.

Finally, local teenagers Nolan Johnston and Jakob Thornton came to his rescue on their dirt bikes. 

"I couldn't thank them enough," Jones told As It Happens host Carol Off at the time. "I said over and over how glad I was for them coming by." 

California transit worker saves passenger from oncoming train

3 years ago
Duration 2:01
The Bay Area Rapid Transit released surveillance video showing supervisor John O'Connor spring to action Sunday after a man fell onto the tracks.

Montreal transplant recipient had 1 in 25 million odds of finding a match 

Susan Doherty was first diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis in 2015. In 2019, she met the donor she says saved her life. (Submitted by Susan Doherty)

After Montreal's Susan Doherty received a bone marrow transplant, she wrote four letters to her donor to say thank you. It wasn't until years later that he was able to read them. 

Doherty suffers from a deadly illness called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, and the transplant she received from William Ashby-Hall saved her life. 

But because post-procedure complications are so common, donors need to wait until recipients have survived beyond the two-year mark before they can receive correspondence. 

When Doherty reached that point, Ashby-Hall received her letters and the pair resolved to meet up in the U.K. where he lives. 

Doherty spoke with Off in January 2019, shortly before that meeting. If her donor had been Canadian, she said, they'd likely never have registered as a match. That's because if men who have sex with men want to be on the bone marrow registry in Canada, they must undergo further testing, according to Héma-Québec.

"They should be admitting gay men onto the registry," Doherty said. 

You can read more about Doherty's story from CBC News in Montreal

Moviegoer in the right place at the right time when he went into cardiac arrest 

Earl Kiley, left, was at the movies with his fiancée Janet Bousquet in Halifax when he went into cardiac arrest. He was saved by moviegoers and a defibrillator on site. (Submitted by Janet Bousquet)

Rescuers who speak with As It Happens often claim that they're no heroes; they were just in the right place at the right time. But in some cases, it's those they rescue who make that claim. 

Earl Kiley, 62, could have been anywhere when he went into cardiac arrest in September. So he thanked his lucky stars that he happened to be at a movie theatre watching the action flick Angel Has Fallen.

That's because there was doctor and two nurses in the audience with him, and a defibrillator on hand. 

"I wouldn't be here talking to you if they hadn't used it, that's for sure," Kiley old As It Happens on Sept. 6. "It probably would have been a different story."


British woman wasn't willing to wait for rescue after she was upskirted 

When a man took a picture under her skirt, Gina Martin was outraged to learn that taking such pictures wasn't a crime in England and Wales. So she set out to change the British law. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

When Gina Martin endured an incident of "upskirting" at a music festival, she decided the time for rescue was long past.

Instead, she took matters into her own hands, and spent the next two years fighting to make it a sexual offence to snap surreptitious photos up people's skirts in the United Kingdom.

When Britain's Parliament approved the law in January, she told As It Happens it took a moment for her victory to sink in.

"I kind of just smiled and carried on as normal, and then I turned around to my mom and she was crying her eyes out," she told Off. 

"That's kind of when it hit me that it was quite a big thing to do, and now I'm starting to feel proud of myself."

California transit worker saves a man from a train in the nick of time 

Bay Area Rapid Transit supervisor John O'Connor speaks at a news conference about pulling a man from the tracks in front of a coming train at the Coliseum station in Oakland, Calif. (Terry Chea/The Associated Press)

John O'Connor says he was just doing his job when he rescued a man from an oncoming train at a California transit station in November.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit worker grabbed the man by his shoulders seconds before a train blurred by.

It was all in a day's work, O'Connor told As It Happens.

"We're here to get our passengers where they want to go safely and on time if we can help it," he said. "If you cash the cheque, do the job."

B.C. rock climbers rescued a dog when its owners thought all hope was lost 

Stellar the dog was emaciated when she was discovered on a cliff face in B.C. (Submitted by Marissa Balahura)

It's not only humans that were saved by As It Happens guests in 2019.  Stellar the dog emerged with a survival story of her own

She'd been missing for more than three weeks when a pair of rock climbers came to her rescue on April 2 more than 200 metres above the ground as they scaled Brilliant Bluffs, a rocky cliff face near Castlegar, B.C. 

One of those climbers, Jared Smith, was able to use a big, blue Ikea bag to haul Stellar to safety — and into the arms of her owner, Marissa Balahura. 

"I'm just so grateful to them," Balahura said. "They absolutely saved her life."


Written by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes with files from CBC News. Interviews produced by Katie Geleff, Sarah Jackson, Abby Plener and Allie Jaynes. 


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