Junior high coach who hasn't seen woman in 30 years heads out in snowstorm to rescue her

 A person walks in the middle of 16th street during a snowstorm on January 3, 2022 in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: A person walks in the middle of 16th street during a snowstorm on January 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. The DC area is expected to get 3-10 inches of snow with many schools declaring a snow day and federal offices are closed. Photo credit Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
By , WWJ Newsradio 950

The snowstorm in Washington, D.C. last week left many people stuck where they were, including Manyka Gaither, who was stranded at a dialysis center. Luckily, her junior high school basketball coach whom she had not seen in more than 30 years came to her rescue.

The 45-year-old goes for dialysis at least three times a week at a facility about five minutes from her home. She arrived at about 6 a.m. on Jan. 3 before the roads became dangerous because of the weather.

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Gaither was feeling ill that day and stopped the machine at 9 a.m., even though she usually stays until about 10:45 a.m. Soon after stopping her treatment, she realized that getting home would be a challenge. She uses a wheelchair and travels on MetroAccess, but services were suspended because of the weather.

Gaither ended up back at the dialysis center after trying to get home. She then shared her struggles on Facebook, giving her friends and family an update on her situation.

"Man oh man! I was not feeling good this morning during dialysis treatment. I decided to get off early to try and get home. Well the snow did a huge number today. I am in my wheelchair and my transportation has been canceled until the emergency has been lifted," Gaither wrote.

"I am stuck at the dialysis center still feeling weak and ill I need the Lord to get me home safe. I tried to go out there and got stuck. That was stupid, but God watched over me and got me back to the center safe. Pray for me and I will continue to pray for you. We all need it!"

Ronald Jenkins, her former coach, saw the post and then sent her a private message asking, “Where are you?”

Jenkins was Gaither's coach at Alice Deal Junior High School (now Alice Deal Middle School) in Washington, D.C. The two had not seen or spoken to each other in 30 years since she graduated in 1992. They had been Facebook friends for a while but did not stay in close contact.

Gaither replied and told him where she was, and Jenkins responded quickly: “I’m on my way.”

The 72-year-old lives in Upper Marlboro, MD, about 20 miles away from the dialysis facility. He didn't think twice about braving the elements and going to help his former student.

“It didn’t matter who she was. She was somebody that needed help, and I just felt like it was my turn to step up,” Jenkins said.

During a winter storm in 2011, Jenkins and his wife, Elizabeth, were picked up from a hospital by a co-worker after his mother had been rushed there in an ambulance and they had no way of getting home. Upon seeing Gaither's Facebook post, he knew what he needed to do.

“I got to go. I got to return the favor,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins and his wife then left together to go pick up Gaither, and drove through the poor conditions on the road for over two hours to get to the dialysis center.

“I didn’t really recognize her,” Jenkins said. “She was wrapped up in a blanket.”

Gaither has suffered many health issues since the two last spoke, including several heart attacks, two strokes, and kidney problems. She was overwhelmed when Jenkins arrived to pick her up, thinking that she was going to be left stranded.

“I just immediately cried,” Gaither said. “I felt like he saved my life. I was so sick and drained from dialysis, if he had not gotten me, there’s no telling what condition I would have been in. I am so, so grateful.”

Jenkins is proud of his actions and hopes it reminds others that "if you have an opportunity to do good for people, then you should step up and do it."

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