‘Butterfly effect’: Chattahoochee Hills officer, wife save unresponsive couple

Chattahoochee Hills police officer Cpl. Joe Wells (right) with his wife, Lauren Wells. The couple helped save a man and woman stranded in their pickup truck suffering a medical emergency. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Family Photo

Credit: Family Photo

Chattahoochee Hills police officer Cpl. Joe Wells (right) with his wife, Lauren Wells. The couple helped save a man and woman stranded in their pickup truck suffering a medical emergency. (Courtesy photo)

Because of a Carroll County couple’s last-minute change of plans one Sunday evening, another couple’s lives were saved as they faced a medical emergency while on a country road.

Cpl. Joe Wells of the Chattahoochee Hills Police Department said he had reflected much on the small decision that led him and his wife, Lauren Wells, to find themselves rendering first aid to an unresponsive man and woman inside a pickup truck “between two cow pastures.”

On Dec. 19, Joe and Lauren decided to abandon plans to take their kids to see the new Spider-Man movie and visit friends instead. Lauren was nine months pregnant and thought she would not be comfortable during a blockbuster with a run time of nearly 2 ½ hours, Joe said

“It’s almost like the butterfly effect; you just had one little thing change and then the domino effect happened from there,” Joe said in a video interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Instead, the couple loaded up their four young children into their minivan and headed in the opposite direction toward a friend’s house. On their way, they faced an unexpected delay when they came upon several vehicles backed up behind a stopped pickup truck. As the vehicles drove around the truck, Joe felt something was off about the situation.

We are very proud of Corporal Wells and his wife Lauren.

Posted by Chattahoochee Hills Police on Tuesday, December 21, 2021

“It was stopped right in the middle of the lane,” Joe said. “About six or eight cars just drove right around, didn’t even honk or try to see what was going on. We pulled up next to it and I ask my wife, ‘Hey, see if you can get their attention, see if they need any help.’”

Lauren waved at the couple in the truck, but as Joe tried to drive off, his wife said, “Their heads were leaning together. They were touching.”

The unusual scene was enough for Joe to pull over the minivan. The couple in the truck were unresponsive, strangely stopped in the travel lane in a rural area surrounded by farmland.

“Something ain’t right,” Joe said. He approached the truck as cars continued to drive past, but could not easily see into the driver’s side window.

“So I just yank the door open,” Joe said. “The driver himself was hunched over, extremely blue. No pulse, his eyes were fixed and dilated. Cold to the touch.”

Joe ran to the other side of the truck, he said, where he checked the woman in the passenger seat. Her condition was similar.

“Absolutely no heartbeat at all,” Joe said of the woman. He yelled for Lauren to call 911, adding, “These people are dead!”

Lauren, who is a registered nurse, immediately dialed 911 as Joe went back to the driver’s side and began performing chest compressions on the man. The two were holding hands in the cab of the truck, he said.

Lauren faced a different sort of challenge: at nine months pregnant, she was running up the road to give the 911 dispatcher the closest address number. Once she found it, about 100 yards up the road, she returned to the truck where she began performing chest compressions on the woman in the passenger seat, Joe said. All the while, their kids watched from the van.

“We worked on them for about 7 ½, eight minutes, and his color started to come back. I started to get a heartbeat,” Joe said. An ambulance arrived and both patients were given oxygen, but Joe was not optimistic about their prognosis.

“The crazy thing is, I’ve seen people less bad-off than they were and not make it all,” Joe said. Though Joe and Lauren’s efforts seemed to have revived the man and woman, they told their children that the couple was likely dead.

Their younger children seemed to take the news in stride, but the Wells’ 10-year-old daughter, their eldest, was shaken by the experience. Later, after the family arrived at their friends’ home, Joe pulled aside his daughter to talk and said she asked him, “Daddy, how do you deal with seeing dead people?”

Joe said he did his best to explain how he and Lauren compartmentalized the traumatic experiences that were a natural part of their work, for him as a police officer and her as a registered nurse.

“God gives us situations that we can either rise to or let it pass,” Joe told his daughter. “We have to do our best to rise to these occasions, if we can, and help when we can.”

The couple from the truck survived, an outcome that Joe said he found miraculous.

“We had no business being there. We didn’t plan on going that way,” he said. “God set this up pretty much on how he wanted the plan to work out.”

Ten days later, Joe and Lauren they welcomed their fifth child, a boy, who was born at their home on Dec. 29.

“Seven pounds and 11 ounces,” Joe said, beaming. Lauren and the new baby are doing great, he added.

Chattahoochee Hills Police Chief Jim Little had high praise for Joe and Lauren’s heroics.

“This incident is an example of the courage, leadership and duty Cpl. Wells displays while working in Chattahoochee Hills,” Little said in a press statement. “We are always on duty and ready to respond. I am thankful and proud of Cpl. Wells and his wife Lauren.”

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