MN Teen Safely Stops Car After Mom Suffers Seizure Behind WheelRICHVILLE, Minn. – As far as Barb Torgerson is concerned, her 15-year-old daughter, Trisha Kawlewski, may only have a learner’s permit, but she knows plenty about driving a car.
By: Helmut Schmidt, Forum Communications
RICHVILLE, Minn. – As far as Barb Torgerson is concerned, her 15-year-old daughter, Trisha Kawlewski, may only have a learner’s permit, but she knows plenty about driving a car.
Torgerson, 53, was taking Trisha, a sophomore at Perham High School, to school Wednesday morning to take a math test. Then Torgerson suffered a seizure behind the wheel.
That’s when Trisha grabbed the wheel with one hand and kept the car and a trailer it was towing on the road. She then braked with her other hand until she could pull into a driveway and stop.
“‘You have definitely passed your driver’s test in my book,’” Torgerson recalls telling Trisha.
“She did a very good job.”
Torgerson is a mother of 11 who works as an independent painting contractor.
On Thursday, a day after the incident, mother and daughter described what happened on Highway 78.
It was about 7:30 a.m., Torgerson said, when she began feeling strange. She was sweating and felt a pain in her stomach. Then she heard a rumble strip. After that, she remembered nothing – until she heard Trisha yelling “Mom! Mom! Mom!” and trying to call 911.
For Trisha, the time in between her mother’s recollections was filled with terror – and fear that her mother had died.
Trisha was on her phone when she heard the rumble strip. She called out “Mom!” figuring her mother was day-dreaming.
When it happened again, she looked over and her mother was fiddling with her shirt, then began twitching.
“I could tell she was having a seizure,” Trisha said.
“I grabbed the bottom of the wheel. I had no idea what to do,” Trisha said, as the car and attached paint trailer drifted across the center line into the oncoming lane. “Luckily, there were no cars coming.”
Trisha knew she had to stop the car to call 911, so she reached down with her other hand to brake. Then bobbed up and down to see as she tried to steer.
After traveling about a mile, Trisha said she slowed the car enough to turn it into a driveway, and slammed the shifter into park.
“I don’t know how, but I didn’t hit the mailbox and I didn’t hit a car,” Trisha said. “I kept yelling ‘Mom!’ but she wouldn’t say anything.”
She called 911.
“I thought she was gone,” Trisha said. “I was very happy,” when she started waking up.
Torgerson remembers hearing her daughter’s voice and trying to open her eyes. When she finally willed them open, she was flummoxed by seeing her car in a strange driveway.
“I said, ‘How did we ever get here?’ ” Torgerson said.
Otter Tail County dispatch sent an emergency medical technician and an ambulance to the scene, and the pair were whisked to Perham Memorial Hospital, where tests found no serious ailments caused the seizure, Torgerson said.
Torgerson said doctors told her that stress and lack of sleep (she had gotten two hours of sleep for the previous two nights), had brought on the seizure.
Torgerson was discharged and working Thursday.
“I’m tough. I have 11 kids (ages 12 to 35). I have to be tough,” she said. “The Lord was looking over us, that’s for sure,”
Trisha, meanwhile, was shaken but back at school.
“How she did it, we have no idea. They were safe and sound,” said one of Trisha’s sisters, Tina Kawlewski, 27, of Moorhead.
“There’s not very much room between your legs and that dash. I thought, ‘How in the world did she do that?’ But she did it. A little hero,” Tina said.
Trisha will be eligible to test for her license in May.
“I never really thought if something like that would happen what I would do. I figured that was the only thing I could do,” Trisha said.
Schmidt is a reporter at the Forum in Fargo