Tiny hero with a big heart saves woman’s life; Five-year-old does not think twice before answering cries for help

May 17, 2017 • Local News

Patricia Cates would not be watch[auth] ing her tiny angel, Zoie McMillon playing if McMillon had not saved her life. The 5 year old had the courage to face some big fears and do the right thing, and because of her compassionate action, Cates is alive today. (Curtis Michaels Photo)

Anybody who went to Sunday school as a child is familiar with the phrase, “And a small child shall lead them.” Patricia Cates knows such a child.
“I had been isolated for days, I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t eat and I was scared,” Cates said. “By later in the afternoon, I knew that it was bad. I began to hallucinate.”
Cates was dehydrated and malnourished. She couldn’t think clearly and she barely had the energy to open her front door in hopes of finding help.
“My hair was wild,” she said. “In my condition, I was scary, which makes what she did so amazing.”
Cates is talking about 5-year-old Zoie McMillon, daughter of Kenneth and Brandie McMillon. But to Cates, she’ll always be the girl who saved her life.
“I remember going to the door and seeing her face in the distance,” Cates said, “and I called to her and I said, ‘Please get your grandmother and help me.’”
McMillon knew what needed to be done.
“At that point, I couldn’t stand anymore,” Cates said, “and she wasn’t afraid. She did not run. Even to people at the hospital, I was scary. If she had run away, there’s no way I could have gotten help. She had the courage to come in my door and then go get help.”
Zoie remembers the moment vividly.
“I was playing,” Zoie said. “Then she asked me to get my grandma, and I did. I thought she needed the help.”
Zoie was with her maternal grandmother, Lela Garcia, at her home when it happened. Cates and Garcia are neighbors.
“I went inside, and Patricia was cold to the touch,” Garcia said. “She was conscious enough to tell she was still alive. My neighbor, Mercedes, called 911.”
Cates was not able to make good decisions by this time.
“The EMTs said she needed to go to the hospital,” Garcia said. “She said she didn’t want to go. I told her I would come get her if they let her go home. That was a week later.”
Garcia said she was worried about how Zoie would be affected by this.
“Zoie asked, ‘Is she going to die?’ and I told her ‘No, she’d be OK,’” Garcia said. “In February, Zoie had found her other grandmother dead, and she was afraid that would happen again.”
Cates feels certain she would not have lived through that day without Zoie’s help.
“She waited for the ambulance to come,” Cates said. “She showed the EMTs where I was, and she waited to find out I was OK. When she helped me, there was nobody expected to my home for 36 hours.”
Cates wants everyone to know about this remarkable young girl and what she did.
“I thought it was very important that she be recognized for this,” Cates said. “I think it’s important because you think people don’t help each other anymore. She looked terrified, but she didn’t even hesitate. She thought I was going to die.
“She found her grandmother dead on the floor in February, and still, when she found me delirious and collapsing, she faced her fear and helped me.”
Cates said she took a very important lesson from Zoie’s actions.
“I had isolated myself from my neighbors,” Cates said. “I never thought that they would help me. The whole neighborhood has rallied around me and helped me out while I get a new caregiver.
“I trained drug dogs for years, and after years of seeing drug dealers and the like, I did not like people. This little girl taught me that people can be good. I sometimes retreat to my room, but I have to understand that people are OK. I’ve never depended on anybody before. I only depended on my dog.”
Thanks to a small child, Cates has a future and she isn’t going to spend it isolated anymore.
“If you get hurt in the process, that’s OK, too,” Cates said. “You can have your feelings hurt when you offer to help and they don’t want it, but that’s OK, too. You just need to reach out.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at

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