Thank You for Surviving the Cold Night, Kathy

It was 29 degrees outside. (-1.6 Celsius)

I passed a pile of rags and a sleeping bag on my way to a photo shoot, taking a shortcut through the alley.

I did not know Kathy (I have never seen her before) was sleeping beneath them on a sewer grid in the alley.

I had just stopped at a coffee house to get a hot cup of coffee prior to seeing the clump on the ground in the littered alley.

I went two more blocks and turned the car around. Like I said, It was 29 degrees outside.

I pulled off the alley and walked over to the pile that covered Kathy and said “Excuse me, I have a hot cup of coffee here if you like cream in your coffee.” I did not yet know who or what was beneath the pile that I was offering my coffee to.

She poked her head out:


She gratefully accepted my coffee. I noticed her lips were a little blue and her teeth were chattering so hard that I thought they might crack.


I stood in the alley talking to Kathy for a moment as she sipped the coffee from her “bed” in the alley.

There was no heat coming from the sewer grate beneath her covers. 29 degrees.


I asked if I could call someone to help her get out of the cold. She said “Who would answer?”

I asked if I could take pictures and write about her.  She said “Yes, if you send it to Obama too. And feel free to use my name.”

Kathy was having difficulty breathing and was uncomfortable getting up. She asked me to call 911.

I did and asked for an ambulance. She was getting clammy and sweaty but she was very cold.

I went to my car. All I had was a piece of fabric to cover paintings. I got it and added it to her pile.


After three minutes waiting for the ambulance, I asked Kathy if she thought she could make it up and into my car so I could turn the heat on and try to get her warm.

She got into the car like a person who could not bend their limbs.

After a minute of full blast heat from under the dashboard, Kathy’s feet started to hurt “really bad”.

Then the ambulance pulled up and an MT helped her from my car, into the ambulance.

I heard them say something about hypothermia and Kathy yelled “Thank you!” out the door.


In my brief conversation with Kathy, I discovered she had a heart condition and no insurance, a husband that was absent, and a sweet disposition that was much warmer than her environment.

Since it’s been so cold, many of the shelters are full. I don’t know where Kathy will go when she gets out of the hospital. I heard her ask the MT to please get her blankets. “They’re the only ones I got.”

I will keep my promise and mail this to Obama.


~ by leakelley on January 26, 2009.

10 Responses to “Thank You for Surviving the Cold Night, Kathy”

  1. No one who passes by here should ever forget these 2 sentences: I asked if I could call someone to help her get out of the cold. She said “Who would answer?”

  2. You are such a beautiful person. You fill me with inspiration..

  3. You are a my hero.
    I can’t think of anything else to say.

  4. Thank you, Lea Kelley, for being such a wonderful person.

  5. You are such a kind soul–and brave! I would’ve been too afraid to find out who was under the blankets. You are, also, lucky that it wasn’t someone who would harm you.

  6. That is true beauty right there. And regardless of what one’s spiritual orientation may be… that is the definition of “true religion” right there. The heavens smiled upon you as you took time to stop and care for “one of the least of these.” You are an angel! I do so hope against hope for better days somehow for Kathy!

  7. You live what you believe Lea, and that is brave, honest, and wonderful.

  8. If only there were more like you. You are very compassionate and very brave.

  9. Beautifully written in its elegant frankness.

  10. Thank you for your actions- I would bet you saved a life.

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