A quick-thinking woman fought through her injuries to save her disabled aunt from a fire.

By Jason Duaine Hahn
August 15, 2017 09:45 PM
Credit: Courtesy Tiffani Williams

A woman left unable to walk after leg surgery used her quick-thinking to save her disabled aunt as their home burned in Memphis, Tennessee.

On August 11, Tiffani Williams, 35, woke up to the smell of smoke coming from an air conditioner that burst into flames in her aunt’s bedroom. Being the only other person in the house at the time, Williams acted quickly to rescue her aunt, Paula Turner, 49, who is bedridden due to cerebral palsy and scoliosis.

But there was an obstacle preventing her from simply lifting her aunt from bed like she had done so many times before—due to surgeries to repair her ACL and meniscus in her left leg, Williams has relied on crutches to walk since July 13.

“I realized that I couldn’t pick my aunt up because of my leg,” Williams tells PEOPLE. “So, I’m looking at the fire and trying to figure out what I’m going to do to get us out of this house.”

Credit: Courtesy Tiffani Williams

That’s when Williams remembered telling her three children to use blankets to carry Turner to safety if there were ever an emergency. With that in mind, Williams attempted to pull her aunt from the mattress to the floor using bed sheets, but it proved difficult without the strength of both legs. Fortunately, she had another idea.

“Right above her head is a window with a curtain, so I snatched the curtain down from the window and placed it on the floor,” Williams explains. “It was difficult, I felt a sharp pain, so I stood on one leg and pulled her off the bed onto the curtain.”

With the heat intensifying, Williams sat on the floor to ease the pressure from her leg, then grabbed the curtain with both arms and scooted her aunt through the doorway and out of the room.

When they approached the front door, one of Turner’s oxygen tanks exploded in the bedroom, prompting Williams to call out to her five dogs. The Memphis Fire Department arrived just after the women made it down the steps of their home and into the safety of the front yard.

The family lost everything in the fire, including their dogs—Snoosta, Pandora, Pooch, Molly, and Jack. Williams says the hardest part has been breaking the news to her three children, who were all at school during the blaze.

“To see my kids cry hurt me the worst,” she says. “Seeing them hurt made it all become reality.”

The family is currently sleeping in the living room of a relative’s house.

If worrying about providing for her children wasn’t enough, Williams is also concerned that she reinjured her leg during the rescue.

“I think I felt an adrenaline rush during the fire because I didn’t feel anything then,” she says. “But now, I’m having trouble walking in physical therapy, and I’m not sure if I may need surgery again.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Williams family and funds will be used to help them find a new home.

“Right now, I’m just taking it day-by-day,” Williams says. “I’ve been letting the Lord lead my steps, and by the grace of God, we’re still here.”