Quick-thinking HIRTA driver Karen Dont saves rider’s life

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Veteran HIRTA driver Karen Dont has been honored for saving the life of Gregg Hodges, a regular rider of HIRTA in Jasper County, in a November emergency. Photo courtesy HIRTA

NEWTON, Iowa — Veteran HIRTA driver Karen Dont of Newton has been honored for saving the life of Gregg Hodges, a regular rider of HIRTA in Jasper County, in an emergency situation last November.

Hodges told his story to the Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency (HIRTA) management: “Your driver Karen Dont saved my life. Karen has driven me to Mercy One hospital, formerly Skiff Hospital, more times than I can remember. My trips to the hospital had always been routine trips, but the trip on Nov. 19 was not at all routine.”

Hodges said that Dont arrived to pick him up for his scheduled ride, but he had woke up that morning feeling very sick.

“When I heard the HIRTA bus honk, I decided I would let it honk a few times and it would go away,” Hodges said, “but it did not stop honking, and it did not go away.” He finally went out to let the driver know that he wouldn’t be going.

As Dont later recalled the event, “You told me you didn’t want to go, but you were not wearing shoes, and your shirt was inside out. So I told you to go back inside and put on shoes and a coat because you are going to the hospital.”

Dont got Hodges onto the bus and immediately drove him to the emergency room.

As a veteran HIRTA driver, Dont knew Hodges’ habits and that he was always quick to come out and board the bus and had never been a “no-show.” So she persisted in getting him out of his house and onto the bus.

“Her persistence and her compassion saved my life,” Hodges said.

Later that evening, Hodges was transferred to St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, where he was given emergency treatment. He eventually learned that he only had a day or two left to live, but he was too delirious to realize just how sick he was.

Hodges doesn’t remember much of what happened after getting off Dont’s bus at the ER, but two months after she picked him up, he feels like his old self again.

“I feel better than I have felt in years,” he said. “Karen didn’t give up on me, and what she did has touched me and many others. She has sent a healing ripple into the world.”

The HIRTA Board of Directors recognized Dont’s exemplary service in a special ceremony.

“We are all very proud of Karen and honored to have our board present her with a Certificate of Recognition for going above and beyond to save the life of one our riders,” HIRTA’s Executive Director Julia Castillo said. “Karen is a bright light in this world, and we are fortunate to have her on the HIRTA team.”

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