Alexandria, Virginia  

The Truckload Carriers Association has named Alec “Zay” Harrison, from Portland, Oregon a Highway Angel after a last-minute decision put her in the right place and time to help resuscitate another driver who had collapsed at a truck stop. 

Driver Alec “Zay” Harrison was on her way from Portland to Seattle on I-5 on a regular route, when nature’s call served to put her in the right place at the right time. “I normally stop a little farther up, but I had to use the rest room,” Harrison says. She pulled into Gee Cee’s Truck Stop at exit 57. “When I got back in my truck, I decided not to use the front entrance and pulled around to the back by the mechanic’s shop.” That’s when she saw two men in the parking lot near a fork lift. “There was something on the ground,” she shared with TCA. “I thought they had dropped something, but as I got closer, I realized it was a person laying there and he wasn’t moving.” Concerned, Harrison safely pulled over, hit the 4 ways, and grabbed her medical kit.  

One of the men was calling 911 and the other was kneeling on the ground shaking the unresponsive man, a truck driver, who had collapsed to the ground face down. “They said he had been down for a few minutes and had taken some shaky breaths,” recalled Harrison. She checked for a pulse. Finding none, she instructed the two men to turn the man over while she held his head. She then started doing compressions. “The paramedics arrived about eight minutes later,” she said. “They got set up and then the captain knelt next to me and took over without missing a beat.” The paramedics intubated the man and were able to get a pulse, but then lost it. “They defibbed him a couple times and got the pulse back and a stable blood pressure,” shared Harrison. They then got the man ready for transport to the hospital.   

“I got back in my truck and pulled out to continue on,” she said. “But I was shaking so bad I had to pull over. I called my sister who is a nurse, and my buddy, Joe. Later that afternoon as I was heading back to Portland, Joe found the hospital where the man had been taken to. He was told the man was a patient, so that was good,” shared Harrison. “It meant he was still alive.” The next morning Harrison got a call from one of the driver’s coworkers who had picked up his load. He wasn’t doing well, but his family, including his wife and daughter, were at the hospital with him.

Later that afternoon Harrison learned the driver had passed away.

“At least his family could be there,” she said with a catch in her throat. “I found out his coworker had delivered his load at 4 p.m. The man passed away at 4:15,” recalled Harrison. “He was choked up and said he must have waited until the load was delivered.”

Harrison learned the driver was in his late 50s. “His sister called me a week later and thanked me for allowing them to be with him. It’s been a tough thing to deal with. I’m glad they had time with him.” 

Harrison learned CPR at the age of 11 when she was a Girl Scout and has kept her certification current. “I’ve never had the chance to use CPR before, and I certainly don’t want the chance again,” she said.    

“The guy who picked up the driver’s load said it made him rethink how we all stop out here and where we stop,” added Harrison. “I spent my first eight years over-the-road (OTR). All of us stop out here where we can. Sometimes we stop in the middle of nowhere. I know of a driver who always stopped at a truck stop to sleep and would check in with the dispatcher every day, but one day when the dispatcher didn’t hear from him he immediately called the state patrol and had them do a wellness check. They discovered he had died in his sleep in the truck,” said Harrison. “It drove home for me that it’s probably best that drivers stay at a truck stop and check in frequently.”  

Harrison began driving in 2002. “I was taught by old school knights of the road,” she said. “They looked out for one another. I wish more drivers would get out and talk to each other again. We’re all we’ve got out here sometimes. The thing that bothered me (that day) was that no one else got out of their truck to help. Not a soul. It was a crowded truck stop. I’m glad I was able to be the right person at the right time.”   

If you would like to learn “Hands-Only” CPR, you can contact the American Red Cross or your local fire department for classes/training in your area.     

For her willingness to assist, TCA has presented ”Zay” with a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decals. Her employer has received a letter acknowledging their driver as a Highway Angel.

Since the program’s inception in August 1997, nearly 1,300 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job.

Special thanks to the program’s Presenting Sponsor, EpicVue, and Supporting Sponsor, DriverFacts.