Port Charlotte, Fla.

Normally, Labor Day is an easygoing holiday for Doug James, a time to putter around the yard and house of his Florida home. But not this year.

James, who is an X-ray Technician at Fawcett Memorial Hospital, lives near the one of the city’s canals. He had been doing some gardening and, just after stepping into the house, heard a loud noise. He thought at first it was a neighbor cutting grass, but then looked outside and saw that a car had crashed into the canal just behind his house.

“People on the other side of the canal said there was someone in there, so I went down the embankment,” James says. “I was barefoot, so borrowed my neighbor’s shoes, waded out and saw the driver slumped over by the passenger side. It was murky water, and the car was sinking, so I began yelling and banging on the window. The guy started to come around and got the window down, but the car was tilting and he was disoriented and tangled in the seat belt.”

James spoke slowly to the driver, who had suffered a medical episode while driving, explaining that he had been in an accident and needed to get out of the car. He was able to help the driver free himself and pull him from the window, and then guide him up the embankment to wait for EMTs to arrive.

“It really was an automatic response,” he says of his willingness to literally wade into an emergency scene. “Here at Fawcett and all across HCA we’re about helping people. This guy needed help, so I went out and helped. I was a little concerned about what to do once I got him out, but I remembered from my training at the hospital to just keep him oriented, and to monitor his condition under the ambulance arrived. I don’t think what I did was a really big deal; we’re in this business to help people, whether we’re at the hospital or not.”