You might be sick of Facebook. Lots of people are. This story isn't meant to change your mind.

But it might show another side, as it's the story of how an emergency Facebook post literally saved two people's lives recently.

It all starts August 23, with five short words on a red background: "Help. In danger. Call police." 

'I honestly thought we were going to die'

Michael Lythcott and a friend, Stacey Eno, were in Bali, Indonesia. They'd been badly injured in a motor scooter accident in a remote area, and they were now incapacitated, barely able to move, and in the pitch dark, clinging to the side of a ravine. 

Lythcott had his American iPhone, and he'd been able to get a signal and post the five-word message. His 2,600-plus Facebook friends sprang into action, coordinating with more than 200 comments on his post and in a separate thread, parsing their last talks with him.

Within minutes, he was receiving calls from friends around the world, via WhatsApp and Messenger. He kept the phone on speaker, afraid he'd run out of battery or drop it. Ultimately he was able to drop a pin and share his exact GPS location. 

Friends contacted the U.S. consulate in Bali, and the local police. A friend named Paul Rocha who lives in Los Angeles, 15 hours away, scoured maps and figured out where they were based on the GPS pin (which they couldn't be 100 percent sure was accurate), and Lythcott's description.

After several hours, Lythcott and Eno were rescued--carted out, injured, on the back of a flatbed truck. They'd been clinging to the side of the steep hill, in shock and pain, for more than four hours.

"Facebook didn't 'kind of' save our lives. It's directly responsible," Lythcott told me last night, via Messenger. "I knew if I put out a scary message, [my friends] would help find me. And I was scared. I honestly thought we were going to die."

'We would have died without that technology'

In the hospital, Eno and Lythcott learned the extent of their injuries. Eno had a broken nose, cheekbones and wrist; Lythcott's injuries included a fractured skull, vertebrae, and ribs, along with collapsed lungs and a perforated bowel.

But they were alive. 

When I talked with him over Facebook Messenger, Lythcott, 39, had left Indonesia after two weeks in the hospital and was flying back to the U.S. for more treatment. (He's an expat who normally lives in Portugal, but will be staying with family in Atlanta.)

Meantime, Eno, 25, who is from Michigan but is currently teaching in Gwangju, Korea, told me (also via Messenger) that she's recovering there, and faces a few months at least for everything to heal. 

"I was talking with Mike on Wednesday. That was our two-week anniversary [of the crash], and we were both so in shock from it all, like it actually happened," she said. "We're both still shaken, that we would have died without technology. Both of us are thinking there's a reason we're both alive, and something bigger in our future, some sort of plan."

Lythcott and Eno had first met earlier this year when they were both traveling in Thailand. The accident hasn't dampened her wanderlust, she said, although she now plans to return to the United States after her current teaching contract is up, in part because she's now facing big medical bills as a result of the accident.

(Friends of both Lythcott and Eno have set up GoFundMe campaigns to help with medical bills, here and here.)

Here's video of Lythcott, from his hospital room in Indonesia a few days ago, explaining what happened.

Published on: Sep 10, 2018
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