Kristen Hiebert’s daughter, Avery. (Photo: Facebook)
When Kristen Hiebert’s car skidded off a rural road and down an embankment toward a frozen river on Sunday, the mom of 4-year-old Avery had one instinct: protect her daughter. She spent the freezing cold night in her crumpled car keeping Avery warm by lying on top of her until morning, when she could go for help.
As temperatures dropped below -13°F, the Boissevain, Manitoba, mom developed frostbite on her knees, lower legs, and feet. After more than 10 hours in the car, still in darkness, she decided to climb up the embankment to flag down assistance.
Lab technician Tina Dubyts was on her way to work that morning, around 7 a.m., when she suddenly turned her car around. “I didn’t actually see anything, but something got my attention,” Dubyts told CBC News Wednesday. That’s when she saw Kristen attempting to climb a guardrail by the road. “She was in shock. She was obviously frozen,” said Dubyts. “She just kept talking about her daughter.”
Dubyts called for help and went to search for Avery, finding her curled up in the wreckage of the car, in a spot where a passenger-side tire used to be. She picked up the little girl, wrapped her in a blanket, and brought her to the back seat of her own car. By then, more passersby had stopped, and Dubyts got help lifting Kristen into the car while they waited for an ambulance.
Mom and daughter are both recovering at Health Sciences Centre hospital in Winnipeg. In addition to the frostbite, Kristen’s arms were both broken and she’d cracked a rib. Miraculously, Avery had only scrapes and frostbite on one foot, according to Mikayla Hiebert, Kristen’s younger sister.
When asked about the rescue, Dubyts turned the spotlight on Kristen: “She’s the hero,” she told CBC. “I don’t know how she went through all that pain. She had the will to live, that girl.”
A longtime friend of Kristen’s, Morgan Campbell, started a GoFundMe page for the family Wednesday, and its $25,000 goal has been surpassed, with $29,000 raised. “You can’t make her bones heal for her, but you want to … ensure that the support is there for her to recover,” Campbell told CBC News. When she shared word of the GoFundMe page with Kristen, she said the brave mom got teary. “She seemed a bit overwhelmed with emotion.”
Kristen faces multiple surgeries, but Campbell said her friend is grateful that Avery is stable as the frostbite on her foot heals. “She’s a hero,” Campbell told CTV Winnipeg of Kristen. “She’s amazing. That is the power of a mother’s love.”