Were it not for the kindness and prompt action of a Canoga Park supermarket clerk, Flora Buchler figures she would not be alive today.
Buchler, a 40-year-old asthmatic, began having trouble breathing earlier this month during her regular walk to the Alpha Beta grocery store at Saticoy Street and Winnetka Avenue. Her breathing worsened in the store, and finally Buchler slumped against the cool counter of the delicatessen and asked if someone could drive her home.
Clerk Valerie Jacoby, 31, volunteered.
By the time they reached Jacoby's car, Buchler could not speak, and her breathing was becoming more and more irregular.
"She wasn't talking," Jacoby recalled Friday. "She was just pointing directions to me."
Buchler bolted from the car when the two arrived at her house, about a half-mile away, and headed upstairs to the medicine she thought would help her breathe. It was the last thing she remembers from that Sept. 16 afternoon.
Jacoby followed and found Buchler fumbling with a machine that dispenses the medicine. Before she could operate it, however, Buchler fell to her knees and gasped even harder for air.
"I said, 'Do you want me to call 911?' " Jacoby recalled. "And just as I said that, she passed out."
Jacoby dialed 911 and followed the dispatcher's instructions to tilt Buchler's head back to make it easier for her to breathe. Paramedics arrived moments later. Doctors said her actions saved Buchler's life.
"If it wasn't for her, I would have died in my house that day," Buchler said.
Doctors were unsure what prompted Buchler's attack, but they said it may have been caused by an allergic reaction to something in the air or something she ate. She was released from the hospital a few hours after the incident.
Jacoby went back to work and finished her shift at the deli.
But the next day, she drove back to Buchler's house to check on her condition.
"She just opened up her arms and we hugged each other and we both started crying," Jacoby said.