The life of a Davenport woman who had fallen in her home and could not get up likely was saved Wednesday by her neighborhood mail carrier after he heard her screams for help, authorities said.
Mike Bitterman, 29, a U.S. Postal Service employee for seven years, said he was beginning to worry as he saw mail and newspapers piling up at the home of Bettie Mantzke in west Davenport.
"Her box had all her mail in it from four days ago," Bitterman said. "She usually gets her mail every day. I knew something was up."
On Wednesday, as he approached her mailbox, Bitterman said he heard Mantzke screaming for help from inside the home.
"She had fallen, and could not get up," he said, adding that Mantzke yelled at him to kick in the door.
"She's a real firecracker," Bitterman said of Mantzke. "I believe one time she told me she's 82. She's a tough old lady. She seemed exhausted and a bit dehydrated, but she was talkative.
"And she was gracious. I've never seen somebody so happy to see daylight. When I kicked the door in, she put her hands together as if in prayer and said, ‘Fresh air.'"
Bitterman said he was curious as to why he hadn't heard her the previous days.
But he heard her on Wednesday.
Davenport police Lt. Jeff Bladel said officers were dispatched to Mantzke's home at 1:38 p.m.
She was taken to Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street, Davenport, where she was reported in fair condition. She was being treated for a broken hip, Genesis officials said.
"When we talk about winter safety, we always tell people to check on the elderly to make sure they're OK, but she obviously had no one but the friendly postman," Genesis spokesman Craig Cooper said Wednesday night.
"It's important to check on the elderly, whether it is their friends, neighbors, or whomever it might be because falls put more elderly people in the hospital than anything else," Cooper said. "It is the leading cause of injury deaths to people 65 and over, and the leading cause of non-fatal injuries, and leading cause of hospital admissions."
Davenport Postmaster Anthony Harris said Bitterman is a hero - and that another mail carrier performed a similar good deed just a few weeks ago.
"We had a situation out of our northwest Davenport office where a carrier found a woman who was injured," Harris said.
Cathy Rutten, who works at the northwest Davenport branch, said that Roger Williams, a carrier of more than 30 years, saw that an elderly woman's mail was piling up.
"Williams knew the woman lived alone, so he looked into the window and saw her lying on the floor.
"She had fallen and had been lying on the living room floor," Rutten said. "Williams got an ambulance there and finished his rounds."
Harris said that for years on end, "the postman is a presence in neighborhoods every day. We've literally watched kids grow up."
Bitterman finished his route Wednesday, saying he feels blessed that he was able to help Mantzke.
"I feel like I'm the lucky one," he said. "I've never saved anyone's life like that. I envy the firemen and policemen now. I'm jealous of what they get to do every day."