WORTH COUNTY - Nine-year-old Melissa Manders "loves her granny," and sometimes argues with her grandmother, Juanita Marshall, over who loves who the most.

But Melissa thinks she's won the argument for now. Two and a half weeks ago, the Worth County girl saved Marshall from bleeding to death after an auto accident.

Melissa, the daughter of Pam and Curtis Manders, had been staying with Marshall that Friday because she was sick. About 4:30 p.m., the two, along with a friend, Susan Thompson, left to go to the Dairy Queen in Sylvester.

As they traveled along County Road 256, a driver on a side road either ran a stop sign or failed to yield after stopping, striking Marshall's 1997 Chevy Blazer. The Blazer rolled over six times before ending up in a field. Miraculously, no one was thrown out.

"I just remember holding on to the wheel while it was flipping," Marshall said. "I told Melissa to get out, because I was afraid it was going to explode. She crawled out the window on the other side, and then I got out."

Once out of the SUV, Marshall realized she was badly hurt. "I had massive head injuries, and part of my ear was cut off," she said. "There was blood running down my back, just all over the place.

"But she didn't hesitate. She grabbed her shirt off and wrapped it around my head, and when we got to the hospital Dr. Herrera said I would have bled to death if she hadn't done that."

Marshall spent five days at Baptist Hospital of Worth. She said she still has headaches and is weak from loss of blood, but the doctors think she'll be fine. Both she and Thompson said they still have glass from the broken windows in their skin.

"I just remember having two thoughts while we were flipping," Thompson said. "One was 'Lord, I want to live,' and the other was, 'Are we ever going to stop?'." Thompson and Melissa were bruised up but not seriously hurt.

One of Melissa's teachers at school had taught her class what to do in case of emergencies. Melissa said she never thought she'd have to put the lesson into practice. "I didn't think anything was going to happen to me," she said. "I kind of panicked when I saw the blood, and I yelled."

Melissa may have thought she panicked, but her grandmother doesn't agree. "I'm very proud of my granddaughter," Marshall said. "She thought quickly and kept her head.

"She loves her granny, but her granny loves her right back."

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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