A tragic plane crash has earned a mom from Alaska accolades for being a "hero" this week, but the honor is more than a little bittersweet. Melanie Coffee was trying to perform CPR on her dying baby after the Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 turboprop crash, but after calling for help, she realized help wasn't going to make it unless she did something. Coffee left her little boy and the eight other passengers and struck out in the Alaskan winter to get help.
Her decision would force her to walk nearly a mile (one way) in fog and freezing cold to get to rescue workers. Because the area wasn't reachable by snowmobile, Coffee then had to walk back with the rescuers to lead them to the crash site.
So what is it that makes Coffee a hero?
Is it that she struck out, alone and injured, to help others? Yes, of course.
But it's more than that.
Coffee was forced to make the decision of whether she stay with her dying baby or leave. Neither option was really a good one ... not for her. But she had to chance it. She had to take the risk that by leaving she might save her son, Wyatt, herself, and as many as eight other people.
She had to measure whether she was worth more to her child if she was there with him or away from him.
In many ways her decision goes against a parent's instinct to leave. When our babies cry, it is us who can comfort them best. When they are hurt, it is us they want. And when faced with the choice of fight or flight, for our kids, we are inclined to choose fight.
But sometimes, fighting for our kids means backing off, walking away, finding someone else who can help us. Sometimes being your child's best advocate means knowing you can't do it all.
Melanie Coffee made the brave choice here.
Sadly, it only helped so much. In the end, six passengers -- including Melanie Coffee and a 14-year-old child -- were rescued. Four perished, including 5-month-old Wyatt Coffee.
Have you ever had to make the hard decision to walk away from your child in order to get them the help they needed? What happened?
Image via Alaska State Troopers