06/22/04 — Girl, 7, helps drive grandfather to hospital in frightening ride

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Girl, 7, helps drive grandfather to hospital in frightening ride

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 22, 2004 2:01 PM

It's not unusual for Bryonna Brantley ride along to pick her mother up from work at Wayne Memorial Hospital. What's not typical is for the 7-year-old to navigate her grandfather's truck to get there.

She had been out shopping Friday afternoon with her grandfather, James Coley, when his blood sugar dropped and he became disoriented while driving on Spence Avenue. The 71-year-old is a diabetic.

He said he could recognize stop signs and traffic but did not know where he was.

Bryonna Brantley and James Coley

News-Argus/Phyllis Moore

Bryonna Brantley and James Coley at Wayne Memorial Hospital

Coley's wife, Rosetta, said Bryonna had seen her grandfather at home when his sugar was low, but never when he was behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

"She's been with me when I give him juice," Mrs. Coley said. "She's seen him when he becomes disoriented. He does not recognize names and doesn't talk clearly."

Bryonna said she just kept talking to her "Papa," asking him questions and telling him where to turn and when to stop at traffic lights.

The pair traveled from Spence Avenue to Elm Street, turned onto Slocumb Street, and made their way to Wayne Memorial Drive. Bryonna said she decided to take over driving duties when they passed Burger King on Wayne Memorial.

"I thought something was wrong and he needed help," she said.

So instead of heading home, she decided to take him to the hospital. She managed to steer the large truck through the narrow, winding entrance road, then instructed him to stop.

"I was scared, I was crying," she said.

Ironically, they parked where they usually do when picking up Bryonna's mother, Lori, who works in medical records -- except at a slightly different angle.

The truck hit a curb, which split a tire on the driver's side, and came to rest within a few feet of a tree. The vehicle was still running when Bryonna got out and headed toward the hospital for help.

A man in the parking lot witnessed the occurrence and told Coley to stay inside and wait for aid.

Lori Brantley said she did not know what had happened when she was summoned to the lobby. As she got closer, though, she saw her father's truck parked on the curb and ran to it.

"My heart just dropped when I saw that truck," she said. "I ran right past him."

Her father was already in a wheelchair. He was treated and released within two hours, he said.

Coley said he had juice and crackers with him in the truck, but it didn't occur to him or his granddaughter during their trip across town.

The Tommy's Road Elementary School third-grader shies away from any credit for being heroic under pressure.

"I was scared," she says softly.

Her grandfather is less hesitant.

"I appreciate what she did," he says. "I'm so proud of her."