DECATUR, Ind. (WANE) - Nine years ago, Tony Kanaan paid it forward to a very sick girl.
The first time Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan saw Andrea Irwin, she was in a coma.
In 2004, a few weeks before the Indy 500, then 15-year-old Irwin had a brain hemorrhage. She was airlifted from Decatur to Fort Wayne and then sent to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
While she was at Methodist in a coma, a few of the racers came to visit the children in the hospital. She was the lucky child that Kanaan went to visit, not knowing until days later he left something special behind.
"Tony wanted to send his good luck medallion to me," Irwin said.
Kanaan said his mother gave him the necklace for protection when he raced, so he gave it to Irwin's mother while she was in the hospital.
Irwin had a successful recovery. She said whenever she had critical surgeries or was in the hospital, a family member would wear the medallion. Irwin would also wear it on race days for the nine years she had it.
"I know any race car driver wants to win the Indy 500, and he's had kind of bad luck the last few years, so going up to this year, I decided it was time for him to have it back," Irwin said.
Kanaan had that medallion in his pocket when he crossed the finish line Sunday.
Irwin said she and her whole family had tears in their eyes when he won.
"Good luck medallion, prayer, and lots of hard work, we've both had great success stories," Irwin said.
Irwin is now married and working in Crawfordsville, and Kanaan won the Indy 500 after 11 years of trying. Irwin said the two will always be connected because of that act of kindness in a scary time.
"You can say I'm a number one fan," Irwin said.
Irwin said the two have kept in touch over the years. She normally tries to send him something around racing season, but they also speak over the holidays as well.
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