Brooke Whittaker '07 (right) with Serena.

Brooke Whittaker ’07 (at right) with Serena.

Brooke Whittaker ’07 graduated from Bethel College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and serves as a nurse at Memorial Hospital, working primarily in the heart and vascular unit. She generally works the night shift and often works overtime, but on Sunday, Aug. 17, something remarkable happened.

“I ended up getting out of work 15 minutes early that morning, and I was completely exhausted,” she says.

As Whittaker was driving home on the Indiana Toll Road, she saw a van in the median that had smoke coming from it. Clearly, it had been involved in a crash.

“Nobody had stopped to help these people,” Whittaker remembers. “There was blood all over, and I heard someone screaming ‘Help! Help!’ I just knew that I needed to stop.”

Whitaker pulled over and quickly assessed the situation.

“I stopped momentarily because none of your nursing training will prepare you for a situation like this,” says Whittaker. “And I was like, ‘God, help me, because I don’t know what I’m risking to do this.’ And I just kept going.”

The lady in the car was screaming, “My baby! My baby!”

A three-year-old girl had been thrown down with her booster seat during the crash, and the seat belt was wrapped around her neck and arm. Whittaker tried to communicate with the mother, only to discover that she did not speak English.

Whittaker untangled the seat belt, pulled the child (Serena Pecora from Rome, Italy) through the broken car window and checked her for injuries. Fortunately, Serena was unharmed except for a small scratch. In the meantime, a police officer arrived on the scene and dispatched for a fire truck and a paramedic unit. Fifteen minutes later, they arrived.

“I think that God put me there for a reason because I did not think that I would get out early, let alone on time,” says Whittaker, who spent about 40 minutes at the scene of the accident, comforting the little girl. “And then I woke up in the afternoon and I had several text messages telling me I had been mentioned on the news.”

On her way to work that evening, Whittaker stopped to purchase an outfit for Serena.

“Something told me that I might see her again,” she remembers.

That night, Whittaker was transferred to work in the intensive care unit, where she was reunited with the Pecora family. Serena remembered her as “the window lady.”

Whittaker says she didn’t think twice about stopping to help that day.

“No matter what came up in the situation, I did what I knew I had to do,” says Whittaker.

Through the events on the day of the accident and in the weeks following, Whittaker has formed a friendship with the Pecora family, who has since returned to their home in Italy.

“Now, we keep in touch on Facebook, and she (Ester Pecora, Serena’s mother) sends me pictures,” says Whittaker. “She sent me one that said, ‘Because of you, I’m alive.’”

In December, Whittaker received a Daisy Award from Memorial Hospital in honor of her heroic efforts. The Daisy Foundation “honors the super-human work nurses do for patients and their families every day” (

Learn more about Bethel’s Nursing Program.