When Carol Coutant answered the phone, she quickly realized the caller had the wrong number. She also realized he was in big trouble.

"I just wanted to talk to you before I die," he said. "I took all the pills. I just want to say good-bye to you."

"Who are you looking for?"

He thanked her for her cards and e-mails. She decided she'd better keep him talking. "Is this Ted?"

"No! It's Tim." He was only 40, but his diabetes and his arthritis were too much to bear. His ex-fiancee had certainly thought so.

"I'm sorry for everything," he said. His voice was slurred.

She didn't want to hang up on him, but she felt she had to get help. Her Caller ID just listed him as "Out of Area."

"Did you get my letter?" she asked. "I sent it where you told me."

He said he hadn't. She pressed him for his address "Just to check," and he gave it to her. Unfortunately, his mailing address was a post office box. But she at least had a town: Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Carol was talking on a cordless phone, and she made a desperate decision. She took it and went outside, walking as fast as she could to the local police station. Unbelievably, the connection held.

Once she was there, she explained what was happening. The police officer called the Rocky Mount sheriff, who called the local post office, who got the street address of the holder of the post office box. A paramedic crew was dispensed.

Carol went back home, fighting to keep the fading stranger talking. She heard the paramedics arrive at his house. They pounded on the door. Of course, the caller was in no shape to let them in.

"Do we have permission to knock the door down?" the 911 operator asked Carol.

"I'm in New York," she started to say but remembered the stakes. "Sure," she said.

And, over the phone, she heard them barge in.

The man was rushed to the hospital in a nick of time. And last week, he drove 1,000 miles to say thank you in person to the stranger who saved his life.

Wrong number? You decide.
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