In an ironic turn, smoking actually may have saved someone's life recently.
Tricia Lester, a resident of Ashbrook Villas, fell down a 50-foot ravine behind her town home into a creek in August. Her neighbor, Tim Knight, stepped onto his porch to have cigarette sometime after Lester had fallen and faintly heard someone calling for help. He grabbed a flashlight and his cell phone, called 911 and started looking for the source of the voice.
"I had been in a lot of pain for the last three weeks before that night," Lester said. "My doctor gave me some heavy pain killers."
Lester, 63, expected to head to the hospital the next day because of intense stomach pain and decided to clean out her refrigerator. She carried some crab meat out to her porch to leave outside for the neighborhood cats. She doesn't remember much after that.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"All I remember was I thought I was climbing vines," Lester said. "But I was actually crawling across the creek."
According to Knight, "She had pinned herself under a branch. With the hypothermia, she probably wouldn't have lasted much longer."
Lester fell after a heavy rain drenched the township, so the creek was running high and cold, Knight said.
"I couldn't tell from her voice where she was, so I grabbed my phone, a flashlight and my shoes," Knight said.
He scrambled down the steep bank in the dark, trying not to fall himself, and pulled his neighbor out from beneath the branch. Fort Mill firefighter James Broom was the first emergency responder to arrive on scene, according to the Fort Mill Fire Department. Knight and Broom loaded Lester onto a board and used the winch on the front of a truck to haul her up the hill.
Lester spent the next four days in the intensive care unit at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Her blood pressure had dropped precipitously and she was hypothermic and going into shock by the time Knight and Broom got her out of the ravine.
She is on different medication now, and she stays at least five feet away from the hillside behind her home.
"It's a miracle he came out onto his deck when he did," Lester said. "I admire him so much...such quick thinking. I owe him my life."
Knight doesn't consider himself a hero, even though Lester now refers to him as "my hero."
"You see a situation and you react to it," Knight said. "It's what most people would do, I hope."
Throughout the ordeal, Knight and Lester agree that the most amazing part of it was that Lester came out of it without a scratch or a bruise, despite falling more than 50 feet down a steep, wooded slope.