Alton family reunited with Ameren Illinois lineman who helped save their daughter’s life

Generic photo of an ambulance.
Generic photo of an ambulance.(Associated Press)
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 4:04 PM CST
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ALTON ( -- A stranger coming to the rescue turns a life-threatening situation into a life-saving one. In January, an Alton mother was driving her daughter to the doctor’s office to get a vaccine. On the way there, a medical episode forced them off the road and could have turned life or death in a matter of minutes.

“Everything was fine. She was playing on her iPad in the car, happy as can be, talking away, and then we turned the corner up here on College and she went into a grand mal seizure,” Lara Walker said.

It’s something Lara Walker is familiar with. The Alton resident’s daughter, Taylor, has Sotos Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Taylor Walker also deals with a form of epilepsy that causes her to have daily seizures. However, on Jan. 13, her seizure was more severe than normal.

“When you’re in a grand mal seizure, you’re dead weight and I could not lift her alone, and I was panicking,” Lara Walker said.

She pulled into Rock Springs Park off College Drive in Alton, just east of Alton Middle School. It was afternoon just as school was letting out and dozens of cars were driving by. One of those drivers would become Lara Walker’s saving grace.

“I just finished a job on the east side of Alton, and I had another job come in, heading to the west side. I had noticed a car pull in abruptly, and a lady had gotten out and frantically running around to the passenger door. As I went by, I noticed someone was leaning over the front seat,” Joe Rister said.

Rister is an Ameren Illinois lineman. He’s worked there for 35 years.

“I stuck my head in through the driver’s door and she said she had dropped her medicine in between the counsels of the seats,” Rister said.

By the time Rister arrived, Lara Walker had been trying to find that medicine for several minutes. She said Taylor Walker’s face had already began to turn purple and blue, which she described as a “worst case scenario.”

“I had found the medicine between the seats, and I had given it to her mother and I comforted her daughter as she was administering the medicine,” Rister said.

Once Taylor Walker gained consciousness again, Rister followed the Walkers to the emergency room where they parted ways. Since that January day, Lara Walker has been trying to get back in contact with Rister. She asked her Facebook friends, and this past week, they were reunited.

“To see him and be able to thank him in person for stopping for us in a situation that was out of control, it makes me very happy to see him,” Lara Walker said.

It was an emotional afternoon as Rister and the Walker Family were reunited at Rock Springs Park.

“I’m glad to see Taylor’s fine. She’s smiling and doing great. I’m very happy I was able to help, and I would do it again any time,” Rister said.

Both Rister and Lara Walker have a message for the community. That message is to be aware of your surroundings and help whenever it is needed.

“Any little bit of kindness to help, to watch your surroundings, and watch for people that are in need of help. It’s an unusual thing nowadays for people to stop and do such things, and it’s very much appreciated,” Lara Walker said.

Rister, who has three girls of his own, echoed that same message.

“You may be able to save somebody and help somebody out drastically, it’s very important,” Rister said.

Ameren Illinois donated $1,000 in Joe Rister’s name to the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of his heroic act. The Walker Family said they couldn’t be more thankful to have met Rister that day.