By Wendy Nugent, HC Now
NEWTON—Kristy Hermstein doesn’t think she’s a hero.
She has her own hero, a police officer who saved her life.
Hermstein, who said her unlucky number is two, was in a vehicle on Feb. 22, 2020, with husband Jeremy Crites when they were involved in an accident on Kansas Avenue. She said a man in another vehicle cut in front of them, went over the line and hit a power pole.
“He immediately hit a power pole straight on,” Hermstein said after an awards ceremony Thursday night honoring her as she was chosen as the 2020 Newton Hero of the Year by Sand Creek Summer Daze.
“Every year, every day, Newton residents step up and do amazing things for this community, whether it be their daily job, in times of emergency or simply for others in the community,” Newton Mayor Rich Stinnett said during the awards ceremony. “These heroes walk among us every day without praise or gratitude. The Sand Creek Summer Daze Festival would like to honor one such person on stage tonight, as an example of the heroes that live within our community.”
Hermstein said she doesn’t know the man’s story about how the accident was caused, like if he had a medical condition that caused it at the time.
“I got out to make sure he was OK,” Hermstein said, adding her husband made it over to the man. “If he was conscious or unconscious, I didn’t know. I just know I needed to get help for myself. I was bleeding. I don’t know how much blood.”
Hermstein said she felt like her legs were on fire.
Before that, she said power lines were down and she didn’t want to cross into them. Something didn’t feel right.
“I didn’t want to get electrocuted,” she said, adding a semi snagged the lines so they were low and then they snapped, hitting Hermstein.
Hermstein, who teared up talking about the accident, said she hit her head.
“I hit the ground and slid,” she said, adding she saw one of her legs by a tire, away from her.
Her other leg was under her, still attached, but neither leg could be saved, so much of her legs are gone now, and she uses a wheelchair and what she called “stubby prosthetics” she’s getting used to using to get around.
She said Newton Police Officer Brad Anderson was the first person on the scene, and if he had not been in the area, she might not be alive today. Anderson administered tourniquets so she didn’t bleed out. She said she never talked to Anderson after that.
“He said he’s not a hero, but he’s my hero,” said Hermstein, wearing a shirt that read, “Peace * Love * Sunshine.” “He said he was just doing his job.”
When it was announced Hermstein was the award winner Thursday night, she was accompanied by her best friend and family before a Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra concert in Athletic Park as part of Sand Creek Summer Daze.
“It’s a great honor, but I’m not a hero,” Hermstein said, adding she’d want someone to stop for her. “It’s just the right thing to do.”
She’s still healing and said it’s a feeling she still needs to get used to.
“I walked for 30-odd years, and it’s gone in one day,” she said.
She had to relearn how to do things, like get out of bed.
“It’s been tough,” she said. “I go see my surgeon next month for the next step. I’m excited about that to feel a little more normal.”
Right now, she’s not working anywhere.
“I’m just staying home and working on me—my mind and my body,” she said. “I’d say each day one day at a time.”
The ordeal has been a huge change.
“It’s not only affected me, it’s affected my family,” she said.