Debra Watkins, VA Nurse, Rescues Couple From Burning Car Wreck


As a nurse manager at the VA Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, Debra Watkins is surrounded by heroes. But the humble nurse is actually a hero herself.

Watkins witnessed a head-on collision between two trucks on her way to work in winter of 2004. Without hesitating, the nurse leaped out of her car, approached the burning wreckage, and helped rescue a pastor and his wife, according to

The woman wasn’t breathing and was trapped underneath the truck’s dashboard, Watkins told the Dayton Daily News.

“She had no heart rhythm, but was bleeding profusely, filling her oral and nasal cavities,” Watkins told

With the help of two male volunteers, the couple was removed from the burning truck, right before it was engulfed in flames, according to the news outlet. Watkins began performing CPR on the motionless woman, who was eventually transported to a hospital where she emerged from a six-week coma, according to

Watkins doesn’t think her actions are extraordinary. She sees the incident as part of her job which she has been doing for over 20 years, Watkins told the Dayton Daily News.

"I'm a private person and don't feel that people should be rewarded for doing what they should," she told the news outlet. In fact, right after the rescue, Watkins changed her clothes and returned to work, she told

Despite her humility, others have recognized Watkins’ act of courage. Her colleague, Tronica Wheeler, nominated Watkins for the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award which she won in 2005.

For Wheeler, Watkins’ actions reflect the seasoned nurse’s philosophy. “She has a belief, ‘That you just grab life by the horns and ride until you get tired; you have the choice of hanging on or falling off,’” Wheeler wrote in her nomination letter. “In Debra’s mind, as she performed the CPR, she knew the lady was dead but she wanted to be able to tell the family that she did everything possible to save her,” Wheeler wrote.

Watkins received other awards including the Nurse Hero Award from the American Red Cross and Nursing Spectrum. But Watkins remains modest.

“I care for heroes every day. The other rescuers say I’m the hero they couldn’t do without, but they’re heroes because I couldn’t have done without them,” she told

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