Ken Stead saw his neighbour lying motionless on her living-room floor, her wild-eyed assailant standing over her.
Instinct took over.
“The only thing that was going through my mind is, ‘There’s a woman over there. She’s in trouble. She needs help.’ It was just that human instinct that, you know, you’ve got to jump in, you’ve got to help out.”
Seconds later, as the woman crawled toward him, Stead was stabbed in the stomach with a butcher knife.
Stead, a 46-year-old cable installer from Cold Lake, Alta., is being honoured with the Carnegie Medal for his bravery on that night two years ago. Stead, who hails from Newfoundland, is among 17 recipients for this year’s award.
The medal, the highest honour for civilian heroism in the U.S. and Canada, is awarded to people who risk their lives while trying to save others in peril.
“It’s kind of touching. I’m glad that people are offering me the award,” said Stead, who previously received an RCMP certificate of bravery for his actions.
“It’s something that I would do all over again. I know it sounds kind of strange, but in the light of everything, the family is still alive and that’s what counts.
“I have no regrets, no regrets.”
He was screaming, ‘Call 911. My mom’s boyfriend is going to kill her’– Ken Stead
For Stead, the ordeal began with a scream. It was June 13, 2018. He had just returned home from work.
“I pulled into our driveway,” he said. “My wife is in the house cooking supper and I was thinking about what she was cooking for supper.
“And then I heard a godawful scream from a child. And I looked down the sidewalk and the young kid was running towards me with no shoes on his feet, just his socks.
“And he was screaming, ‘Call 911. My mom’s boyfriend is going to kill her.'”
It was a teenaged boy who lived three houses down the block. He was barefoot, panting and calling out desperately for help.
Stead left the boy with his wife, Anne, and took off running. Through the open window of the neighbours’ home, he heard a sickening thump.
He banged his fist on the front door, again and again. Eventually, a man opened it.
Stead could see a woman sprawled unconscious on the floor.
“Oh, my God, she’s dead. And she’s got two kids. That’s the only thing that was going through my mind,” Stead said. “She’s got two kids and she’s dead. That was heartbreaking. “
Stead called out to the woman, asking if she was all right.
“Finally she lifted her body up with one arm and she said, ‘No, I’m not fine.’ So I stepped in and I told her to come to me.
“You could tell that she was pretty roughed up. Her face was swollen. Her eyes were bloodshot. She looked like she had been through a lot.”
The woman started crawling toward Stead and the open door.
Then her assailant lunged at Stead with a knife.
Stead thought he had been punched. When he saw the blood and the knife’s silver blade, he realized his stomach had been slashed.
The man who cut him ran upstairs and barricaded himself in a bathroom. Stead and the woman fled the house.
‘Everything goes blank’
Police arrived moments later. Stead ran home and his wife rushed him to the hospital.
The suspect got into a standoff with police that wouldn’t end for three hours, when he was arrested and airlifted to hospital for treatment of self-inflicted injuries.
Meanwhile, Stead was slipping in and out of consciousness after collapsing in the emergency room.
He awoke around 11 p.m., after undergoing reconstructive surgery to his stomach. The knife had punctured an artery and his diaphragm. He received six litres of blood and plasma.
Stead remained in hospital for six days. He wasn’t back at work for another two months.
The 35-year-old woman who had been attacked was taken to hospital for treatment and was released later that night.
While she was at the hospital, she tearfully asked if the man who had saved her was OK.
More than two years later, Stead remains grateful the woman he saved has been able to “move on with her life and watch her kids be raised up right.”
He later learned that the woman’s baby girl was asleep in her crib upstairs during the attack. The thumping he had heard from outside the home was the sound of the woman’s head hitting the floor.
“He was on top of her. He was strangling her and she was passing out,” Stead said.
“And when I banged on the door, she actually passed out. She thought she was ready to go. She thought she was going to pass away.
“She said she could hear me calling out to her but she couldn’t answer. And then finally, after the fourth time calling out, she finally was able to catch a breath.”
You can be a hero every single day.– Ken Stead
Stead said he hopes his story helps inspire others to be heroic in the everyday. Simple good deeds can make heroes, he said.
“We need to be there for each other,” Stead said.
“It doesn’t mean you have to run out and risk your life. You can be a hero every single day. Even if it’s just to stand up and give your seat to a pregnant woman or an elderly person so they can have a seat on the bus. I mean, that’s being a hero right there.”
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