(CNN) — 25 years ago, a Maryland medical student got lost while driving his car, but taking a wrong turn led him to answer the prayer of a man who had been shot.
Now, decades later, Damon Walker reunited with the medical student who drove into chaos instead of running away from him.
“I constantly think about that moment of being in the gutter and not having any hope of living, you know, knowing that death was imminent,” Walker told CNN on Friday. “I said a simple sentence that it would be nice if someone came to pick me up.”
Walker says he couldn’t believe when a car stopped and “an angel” came to help him. It was Dr. Michael Franks, a medical student at the time. Franks saved Walker’s life that night on New Year’s Day 1996.
Neither of us knew what happened to the other
The November meeting, as seen on WBAL, CNN affiliateIt was the first time Walker and Franks met after the trauma of that night wove their stories together.
Walker and his mother found the Good Samaritan after an online search and a phone call to Franks, who is a urologist at Virginia Urology. Franks did not know what had happened to Walker after the rescue, did not even know if he had survived.
“We talked, we connected, we gave each other a little hug and then we went to lunch across the street from my office and we just talked a little more and processed things, not just for emotional closure, but to see where she is now and what happened. “Franks, 52, told CNN.
“I assume the worst when someone has a spinal cord injury, it’s a difficult life,” Franks said. “It looked really good. It had the most positive vibe ever.”
Both men were stoic at the time, but the emotion was there. They both had tears in their eyes, says Walker.
“It’s still kind of surreal in a way, but I suppose it offers closure,” said Walker, 44. “I just wanted to express my thanks and gratitude.”
He didn’t have much time to live
They both reviewed what happened that night and the moment that brought them together.
Walker, then 18, was leaving a club with friends around 3:00 am after a New Years party. They were trying to hail a cab near Oriole Park in Camden Yards when a car with several men inside it pulled up, Walker says. A fight broke out and some men assaulted Walker.
“They grabbed me and threw me to the ground,” Walker said.
Walker gave them what he had, hoping the attackers would leave after the robbery. He jumped to his feet when they left and three shots hit him: one to the thumb, one to the chest, and a third to the abdomen.
As he fell to the ground, Walker realized he was paralyzed, he says. He prayed someone would come help him and that’s when Franks showed up.
Franks went in the opposite direction from the rest of the fleeing people. “You really don’t see a lot of people doing that kind of thing,” Walker said.
Franks says he heard gunshots. Shortly after, he got out of his car and saw that Walker had been shot and was barely breathing.
As a medical student at the University of Maryland at the time, Franks knew Walker was in trouble. He opened his phone and considered dialing 911, but realized he could take Walker to the nearby R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.
“If anyone can take care of this man, who is probably 10 to 15 minutes old, it is that place,” Franks said. “So I made the decision to put him in the car and take him to the front door.”
How Walker is giving back to other victims
Franks says he’s not looking to be the center of attention. He defines himself as an introvert, and as a surgeon he says he is used to medical emergencies.
“It’s hard for me to talk about it,” Franks said. “I think anyone would have done that, but I know maybe in hindsight, maybe not.”
While some choose to think of Franks as a hero, he believes the true story is about Walker and the extraordinary way he has chosen to live his life and give back to his community.
After getting out of the hospital, going through physical therapy, and adjusting to his wheelchair life, Walker says he devoted himself to learning and reading, as he was “functionally illiterate at the time.”
He worked as a counselor and is now a violence prevention specialist at a local hospital. Walker tries to help the victims of shooting or stabbings get jobs or help them however he can.
Walker recalls the level of care he received when he was shot and how well people took care of him, from helping him medically to making him laugh when he needed it.
“If you help these people heal, you could be healing more than a gunshot wound,” he said. “He may be healing some aspect of not trusting the system, not trusting people who can now offer understanding to other people who are going through the same thing.”
Letting Franks know how he is giving back to his community was part of why he wanted to reconnect with him, says Walker.
“I wanted to let him know that he not only helped save me, but he also helped save my community,” Walker said. “I know I couldn’t have given that (to my community) if it weren’t for him who helped me that day.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism