Early last Tuesday evening, Efrain Sotomeyer was driving west on Interstate 4 with his wife and daughter when he noticed a woman standing by her stalled car near the McIntosh Road exit in Seffner. Most people would have kept on driving.
Efrain Sotomeyer is not most people.
He pulled up behind her.
“Usually he asks me before he does something like that, but this time he just stopped,” said Laura Sotomeyer, Efrain’s wife. “He put on our blinking lights, left me and my daughter in the car, and all of a sudden I look and he’s pushing her car.”
She had run out of fuel.
It was about a quarter-mile to the exit. Once he was there, another good Samaritan pulled over and helped push the woman’s car the rest of the way down the exit ramp and to a gas station. Efrain stayed with the lady until she reached the gas pump. She thanked him, and he came back to the car.
Laura could tell something wasn’t right, though. He was breathing hard, harder than you’d think for even such exertion. And he was coughing hard all the way. He had tightness in his chest. His back was hurting. He was wheezing. She tried to get him to a doctor or the emergency room; he wouldn’t go.
“He was worried about the bills,” she said. “I told him, ‘Honey, we’ll figure it out.’ ”
When Efrain finally gave in the next morning, doctors found he had 100 percent blockage in one of the major heart blood vessels. They performed a heart catheterization, and he is recovering.
The story doesn’t stop there, though.
I found out about this story in an email from Ken Ackerman, outreach pastor at the South Brandon Worship Center, where the Sotomeyers are one of about 300 families who attend the church. Efrain is a deacon, but that doesn’t mean he is in charge of anything. At this church, the deacons serve.
“He is a true pastor’s friend,” Senior Pastor Len Harper said. “Whenever I’ve needed something, he is the first to step up.”
A self-employed auto mechanic, Efrain has been known to repair cars for people in need and never charge them a dime. Ackerman said he will look around the church grounds and generally find Efrain doing something to help, whether it’s setting up for a gathering or just picking up litter. No job is too small.
Yes, this family gives and gives and asks for nothing. They’re not asking for anything now, even though the bills from this stay in the hospital could dwarf his catastrophic insurance coverage.
“I am not writing this to you for solicitation of money. We are a family church and will all pull together to assist them through whatever needs they have. We help each other,” Ackerman wrote.
“I want your readers to understand that this type of individual does still exist. Never once has Efraim complained or questioned what would be if he did not stop to help. Efraim has no regrets. Efraim is just being and doing who God made him to be.”
Laura cried when I read her that part of her pastor’s note.
“That makes me feel so awesome,” she said. “We’re always looking to help people, but when it comes back to you, that’s something you don’t expect. It’s humbling. We just love to give. We don’t expect anything in return.”
If you believe things happen for a reason, consider this: Without the exertion from pushing the car, Efrain might never have known he had a heart problem until it was too late. No question, he wasn’t expecting anything that night when he stopped to help. Funny how it works out sometimes.