Her savior was a state Highway Patrol trooper who happened to see the lights of her truck flashing Sunday morning after she managed to slip out of the tub like a seal, pressing the remote to lock and unlock the vehicle.
After lying on her arms for 2 ½ days, she crawled to the door of her Halifax home. While she couldn’t press the panic button of the remote, she could hit the lock button.
That’s when Trooper Dustin Efird, coming back from helping Roanoke Rapids police Officer Daniel Hundley process a man charged with drunk driving, noticed the flashing lights of the F-150 at her home off Highway 301.
It was shortly after 1:20 a.m. Sunday.
“I started on 301 north and was going back to the office,” Efird said Tuesday. “There were lights flashing.”
Efird drove 50 yards past and decided something wasn’t right and went back. “I parked up in the yard. I heard someone yelling ‘help me,’ a female voice. I made my way to the house. I saw a female lying against the door. I got up to her and asked her if she was OK.”
That’s when Washington told him she thought she hurt her back when she slipped in the tub and finally found the strength to get out. “She laid on her arms for two and half days. She hit the lock button every time a car came by.”
Washington, a nurse at the Halifax County Detention Center, had stepped into the shower at 9:30 last Thursday night.
Efird, who received assistance from Trooper Scott Richardson, requested EMS, got Washington a blanket and got her bottled water. “She had been drinking bath water. I let her dog out and attempted to locate her cell phone.”
The trooper said one side of Washington’s face was swollen and her lip injured. When he went to see her at Halifax Regional later Sunday he learned she had been lying on her arms so long she began to lose circulation.
Tremendous job of recovery
“She’s doing a lot better,” Major Jay Burch, the jail administrator for the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, said Tuesday. “There’s issues with circulation. She’s doing a tremendous job with recovery.”
Efird, Burch said, “Did an awesome job.”
Burch said Washington has been with the detention center for more than a year. “She’s been doing an awesome job. She wants to help inmates get the care they need. That’s like a priority for her. She has a personal interest in their welfare. She does an excellent job of identifying what their needs are and seeing they get the care they need.”
Her situation was dire, Burch said. “Around 9:30 Thursday night she took a hot shower to relax, fell and evidently hit her head. She remembers coming to Friday. She was laying on her arms in the shower. It cut off her circulation. She stayed that way Friday and Saturday.”
Washington’s mother lives in California and has already buried two of her children, Burch said. “She didn’t want her mom to bury her last child. That was her motivation. She belly-crawled all the way to the front door where her keys were.”
What has impressed Burch the most about the ordeal was Washington’s will. “The biggest thing is her will to survive and get out of the tub without using her arms. She’s a very strong-willed person.”
Then there is her compassion. “The biggest thing that hits with all the trauma she went through was she was thinking about her mom. I think one of the biggest characteristics of nurses is they put others before themselves and she falls right in that category.”
'My guardian angel'
Washington, who continues to recover at Halifax Regional, said of Efird, “He’s my guardian angel. He kept on investigating.”
Washington said she awoke face down in the shower by the drain. She remembers her dog licking her, keeping her awake. “I knew I wouldn’t be missed until Monday.”
A Navy veteran, Washington said instinct for survival kicked in. She worked her body up, using the soap dispenser to help support her. “I hit the floor like a seal. I did infantry crawls to get to the door.”
Seeing the state Highway Patrol car pass by, stop and come back, she said, “That was the most beautiful sight. You have no idea … He paid careful attention to detail. He had an eagle eye. He just worked on his instinct.”
Washington said her father was a 30-year Marine. “He always told me to have a backup plan. I didn’t have one. It was survival. I got a plan B real quick.”
State Highway Patrol Sergeant D.O. Guy said of Efird, “He did an outstanding job hands down, his attention to detail, he went through the extra effort and investigated.”
Efird credits Washington for her will to survive. “I just did what I was supposed to. She did all the hard work finding a way she could be found. I have a great admiration for her tenacity and will to survive.”
Washington gives him credit back. “He did his job thoroughly. He’s on a whole other level. He did everything right.”