During a blizzard last month in Buffalo, New York, Sha’Kyra Aughtry took action when others might be less willing. She welcomed a stranger — a developmentally disabled man — into her home on Christmas Eve,from the blistering cold and caring for him as he suffered from severe frostbite.
“I just kept thinking about: what if it was my family member?” Aughtry told CBS News.
“He was a very good Christmas gift,” she said. “And now, for the rest of my life, I will remember him.”
The story of the rescue began when Aughtry woke up the morning of Christmas Eve and heard “help, help!”
She looked out her window and saw a man struggling in the snow.
“He was at my door, banging,” she said.
It was 4 degrees outside with 53 mph winds. The man had no gloves on, and looked lost and in pain.
So she and her boyfriend, Trent Alls, Jr., took the man, Joey White, in.
“You made him comfortable. He felt the love,” his sister, Yvonne White, said to Aughtry.
The 64-year-old has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, she said, and lives in at a group home just a few blocks from Aughtry’s house. That morning, he had headed to a movie theater where he’s worked as a custodian for 40 years. It’s unclear how long he lingered in the cold.
“He was so frozen,” Aughtry said. “His clothing was completely froze.”
His hand was balled up, holding a bag.
“I said, ‘I have to cut the bag,’ because the bag was froze. He had ice, literally ice balls around his hand,” she said.
After bandaging his severely frost-bitten hands, Aughtry called 911 again and again. But the weather conditions made it impossible for first responders to reach them.
“I was waiting for the National Guard, and I still was waiting for 911, paramedics, fire…,” she said. “I was waiting for anybody, and nobody ever came.”
As the hours passed, the snow kept piling up, so Joey spent Christmas with her, Alls, and their kids. She did his laundry, fed him and played movies for him — all while his hands were changing color and the pain was becoming unbearable.
“I was thinking, ‘If there’s going to take them this long to come and get him. And he’s alive. How long is it going to take him to come and get a dead body if he was to pass?’ I couldn’t wrap my head around— I just couldn’t do it.”
On Christmas night, she turned to social media, panicking.
“This young man’s fingers is going to fall off in my house— absolutely not. I had to— he had a ring on his finger. I had to use [shears] to cut the ring off of his finger! I’m not no surgeon,” she said in a video she took at the time.
About 36 hours after the ordeal began, two good Samaritans answered her plea and drove them to the hospital.
“When I got in the truck, he told me he was scared. And I said, ‘I’m scared, too. I’m scared too, Joey.’ And I said, you know, ‘We got help. … The doctors are going to take care of you.’ And then when he told me he loved me, I knew, I knew, he really felt safe.”
They made it to the emergency room.
It was a Christmas miracle for Joey and a Christmas offering from the mother of three who chose caring for a stranger instead of celebrating Christmas with her family.
“Christmas wasn’t even about the gifts, about my kids,” she said. “It was literally, him. Christmas was him.”
She has a message for people who will encounter something down the road: “People should be kind. Be loving.”
Yvonne White said doctors had to remove all of Joey’s fingers, including his knuckles.
She also said Aughtry saved her brother’s life.
“I feel that especially nowadays, the way our country is … everything is just, you know, the weather is terrible. This is terrible,” she said. “And then to see the compassion and the love with two strangers … is just amazing.”