HOPE HULL, AL (WSFA) - A Hope Hull man is thanking a postal worker for saving his life following a horrific ordeal that left him lying wounded on the floor of his house for ten days.
The man was unable to get help after a terrible fall and found different ways to stay alive until his mail carrier found him.
Cissy Cartwright, who has been delivering mail in Hope Hull for more than 20 years, knew something wasn't right when she noticed that one of the residents on her route hadn't checked his mail in several days. Tommy Hope, 66, has a long driveway and his home sits back off the road in a secluded rural area so she decided to go back to check on him. Over the years, Cartwright has learned the habits of those she delivers to and looks after senior citizens and those who live alone, like Hope. She also knew Hope suffers from a bad back.
When she pulled up, Cartwright found Hope's front door open and his truck in the front yard with the hood up. She went to the door and called for Hope and he yelled back to her for help. She found him on the floor, dehydrated and injured and learned that he'd been there for more than a week. She called 911 and waited with him until an ambulance arrived.
"I was in shock but I was just so relieved that when I did yell for him, he answered me. I'm just glad I found him when I did," Cartwright said.
Hope, who does not have immediate family nearby, fell inside his home on July 4th, suffering broken bones in his arm and other injuries to his leg and hip. He couldn't get to his phone to make any calls, but he managed to scoot on his back to the front door where he kept a five gallon bucket of rain water. His truck sometimes overheats so the water was kept there for that reason. Using a towel as a filter, he drank the water to stay hydrated.
He also scooted to his kitchen and used a stick to get ice out his ice maker but that didn't last long when the pump went out on his well. He found concentrated juices and frozen blackberries in his freezer but he couldn't continue to eat or drink them because of acid reflux. Hope left a handwritten note on the floor of his foyer that read: "Help! SOS! I've fallen and I can't get up!" Cartwright believes he read books as he waited for someone to find him, since books were scattered across the floor.
Tommy Hope is still in the hospital recovering from his injuries and will spend several weeks in a rehabilitation facility. He's had surgery on his arm to repair broken bones. Cartwright has been to visit him in the hospital.
"He has to be a strong man because to do some of the things he did to survive, it was just amazing to me," she said. "He calls me his hero and if that's what he wants to say, I'm good with it. But I don't feel like a hero. I was just at the right place at the right time."
Cartwright says Hope has always been kind to her over the years, even giving her small gifts for her children around the holidays even though he'd never met them. Cartwright took her youngest son to meet Hope in the hospital and Hope told the child how much his mother's actions meant to him.
Rural carriers in Hope Hull are keeping an extra close eye on elderly residents in the wake of the incident. Postmaster Sherry Hughes pointed out that the postal service is the only company in the United States that goes to every door, every day, six days a week. She says carriers are the "eyes and ears" of the community.
"Hope Hull is a very close-knit community and our carriers are not just delivering mail every day and they're not just delivering packages every day. They're delivering service every day," she said. "I think all the carriers who have heard this story, even through social media, are doing the same thing. They're thinking that if it saved one person's life, it can save a lot more if we're all just dedicated in watching and looking out for our elderly and for anything unusual that might be happening."
Cissy Cartwright has been nominated for the Postmaster General's Hero Award after saving Tommy Hope.
"What Cissy did was a true heroic act. She went out that morning just doing her every day, normal job and we have a program here in Hope Hull to look after our elderly. Mr. Hope was not targeted as one of those seniors so what she did on her own was decide to check on him because he had not checked his mail," Hughes said. "When he was being put on the stretcher that day, he looked right up at me and said, 'I knew she would come. She just saved my life.' I knew then that she has definitely earned her title as a hero, even though she will tell you she was just doing her job. I'm so proud of her. And she did it just in time because if she had waited any longer, he might not be with us today. And he is so thankful to her."
Hughes stressed the importance of residents letting the post office know if they go out of town.
It's not the first time a postal worker from Hope Hull has rescued someone. Another carrier found an elderly resident 30 minutes after a fall and got them help. Another found a 95-year-old resident trying to save an armadillo by pushing it across the road with her cane and the carrier got the woman to safety. Another carrier spotted a suspicious vehicle in the area and helped put an end to a burglary ring.
Tommy Hope has told the post office that in the future, he plans to get a Life Alert and keep in touch more with neighbors and those in the community. His daughter, who lives in Germany, sent flowers to the post office on Wasden Road in appreciation and his brother went to the post office in person to thank the staff. Hope calls the post office every day to give them an update on his recovery.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he's going to pull through this just fine," Cartwright said of Hope." I told him just as soon he gets out and gets home to let me know. We're going to make different arrangements for him. I told him that I'll be delivering his mail to his door every day so he was glad to know that."