GRAND FORKS — Dawn Degidio often thinks about the stranger who found her lying by the side of a road near Thompson — but especially in October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
It happened about four years ago, she said. She'd been in a physically abusive relationship for about a year and saw no way out: “I tried to kill myself by, I think, smoking crystal meth, I’m not 100% sure,” she said.
“Somebody gave it to me, and I smoked every bit of it,” said Degidio, noting she had never done drugs before. “I don’t know about crystal meth, I really don’t. I only knew I wanted to die.”
Degidio had been riding a bicycle back from Thompson to Grand Forks, a 15-mile trip, when she collapsed and a stranger stopped to help.
She vaguely remembers him as a “light-skinned African American,” with shoulder-length dreadlocks, who looked like Mr. T of “The A-Team” TV show, she said.
“He had this huge gold cross hanging down. And he said, ‘I am not leaving this woman here to die. I am waiting for the authorities and the ambulance.’ ”
The man stayed with her until the ambulance arrived; she has no idea how long, she said.
“I can’t remember a whole lot — just bits and pieces," said Degidio, who never got his name and has no way to reach him.
About a year after the incident, she contacted the Grand Forks and Thompson police departments but they declined to help, she said.
“I’d like to thank him,” she said. “He literally saved my life. I’d be dead today if it wasn’t for him.”
Later, Degidio wondered if he may have been a counselor or “he somehow knew about this stuff,” because she remembers hearing him say, “She’s on crystal meth, because of her lips,” to someone nearby or on the phone.
She learned later her lips were “purplish-blue,” she said.
When she recovered, she contacted social services to make sure her kids "were made safe and had a safe place to go” and left the area, she said.
But life was still difficult.
“I left everything, everything,” she said. “I went homeless for nine months, and penniless.”
She “sold all kinds of tools” and an ex-husband gave her $50 to help her get back to Kentucky, “where I thought I had friends,” she said. “And I had some people help me along the way.”
“I lived out of my Tahoe. If I was hungry, I ate out of a dumpster,” she said. “I slept in my Tahoe in minus 12 degrees all winter long; I put layers and layers and layers of clothes on.”
But that day when she tried to end her life, and the stranger who cared enough to tend to her on the side of the road, keeps coming to mind.
“You’ve got to wonder — did he ever wonder, did this woman ever make it?” Degidio said.
What happened to her “was a good outcome,” she said. “The guy saved my life at a very horrible time in my life.
“I just want to know who he is. I want him to know that I’m OK. I survived, and I’m doing awesome because of him,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
The person to whom she’s referring — or anyone with information about this incident — is encouraged to contact the Grand Forks Herald and input will be conveyed to her.
Degidio, 51, lives in Livingston, Texas, where she recently opened a resale business. Having her daughter and three grandchildren nearby “helps me move along,” she said.
“I’m doing good, and I owe my life to him,” she said. “I have a good life.”