Construction Worker Trained at Work Administers Hands-Only CPR, Saves Co-Worker’s Life

by Gina Mayfield

One afternoon, in the late summer heat of North Georgia, four E.R. Snell construction workers were busy on a job site. “We were building a new bridge and had some piles underneath it that we were bringing up to the top of a pretty steep hill,” says Jimmy Wilson, who was driving a tractor that day.  Also on scene was Lamar Henderson and Austin Parker, a guy they called Tiny, who was operating the bulldozer. Plus another employee in his 70s, Ron.

As Ron made his way to the top of the hill, Jimmy’s back was turned to him. “I heard a racket, and Tiny started blowing the horn,” Jimmy remembers. “I got out of the tractor and ran around it to find Ron on the ground unresponsive. He wasn’t breathing. I rolled him over. His eyes were glazed over. There was just nothing there.”

Tiny called 911 and Jimmy started chest compressions. “A few minutes into it, Ron gasped for air, and went right back out with no response. After several more minutes of chest compressions he finally got his breath and started to come to,” Jimmy says.  

Paramedics arrived in about 6 to 8 minutes, just as Ron regained consciousness. “He was incoherent and didn’t know what happened or where he was. The team had to coach him into the ambulance,” Jimmy says. Off Ron went to the hospital where he stayed for several days before returning home with a pacemaker and his wife who encouraged him to retire, which he did.

“The paramedics told us if we hadn’t started CPR, Ron wouldn’t  be here with us now. The doctors said the same thing,” Jimmy says. “Ron is in his 70s, but you would never know it. He would outwork some of the 20-year-old kids we had working with us. That’s just the kind of worker he was. It was just a shock for him to go down like that. He worked really hard every day. You just never know.”

That’s true. Nobody can predict when and where CPR will be needed to save a life. After E.R. Snell’s safety manager, Jason Robinson, joined the company five years ago he soon began providing significantly more First Aid/CPR/AED training classes. As a career retired firefighter/paramedic, he understood the importance of training all employees, not just those on construction sites. He added two instructors and started training and certifying superintendents and foremen, then crew leads, and is working toward a goal of reaching 100 percent of the staff, including the administrative team. He says that’s absolutely doable without interfering with production.

Jimmy had taken one of Jason’s classes just a few months before saving Ron. These days, Jason shares their story even beyond the walls of E.R. Snell to encourage other organizations in their area to make CPR training a priority. When asked, he’ll even teach the class himself.

“If it weren’t for me having that CPR training, we would have been in big trouble that day,” Jimmy says. “We would have been in panic mode, and it wouldn’t have dawned on me to start CPR that quickly. . We might have started compressions eventually, but I wouldn’t have known that time matters. Minutes matter. Seconds matter.,” Jimmy says. “I’m just glad I had that CPR training. In my opinion, every workplace should offer some kind of first-aid training and CPR classes, because it really helped us.”

Wife Performs CPR on Husband, Plays Vital Role In His Survival

By Gina Mayfield

On a typical fall Saturday in October of 2021, Blake and Ashley Burns settled into a routine not unfamiliar to many who call Alabama home. In advance of the University of Alabama football game, Ashley spent the first part of the day in the kitchen and, just around kickoff, offered her husband a slice of freshly baked tres leche cake. Blake decided to hold off due to what he believed was indigestion, then sat down in his favorite chair. Just as he pulled back the lever of his recliner, he became unresponsive.

On instinct, she jumped up and tried to get Blake out of his recliner. The AHA recommends providing chest compressions on a firm, flat surface when possible. Though Ashley was unable get Blake to the floor she started doing chest compressions right then and there. “I could see the color drain from his face. There was no oxygen. I asked him if he could hear me and got no response,” she says. Ashley kept doing chest compressions, then suddenly had a realization: Oh my goodness, I’m here by myself, I’m going to have to call 911 — something she later realized she should have done first.

Ashley & Blake Burns

She gave Blake two quick breaths, grabbed her phone, called 911 on speaker and swung open the front door for the EMTs. “Luckily, we live about half a mile from the fire department. I could hear them turn on the sirens on their way to our house,” Ashley says. Before she knew it, she had a house full of EMTs. Chest compressions commenced and a defibrilator was used. “When they shocked him, they couldn’t get a response, so they ended up having to shock him three times,” Ashley says. Still nothing.

“I got really nervous. I thought, This is not good. They’ve shocked him three times and he’s still not responding. That’s when they told me they were going to have to intubate him and start an IV,” Ashley says. Not long after, they loaded Blake into the ambulance and rushed him to the hospital. Ashley and Blake’s brother met them there.

“I’m going to be honest, we were actually scared to go in. I thought they were going to come out and say he didn’t make it,” Ashley says. Instead, a fireman found them and shared some good news: Blake was awake! Ashley went to see him and found a very active emergency room, as they prepared to put in a stent. Eventually, the doctor on duty had a special word for Ashley. “He told me over and over and over that had I not been there and done CPR when I did, Blake would not be alive,” she says.

After a stay in the hospital, Blake and Ashley returned home to a new normal. Blake quit smoking, eats better and checks his blood pressure twice a day. Both Ashley and Blake completed their CPR training.

Looking back, the warning signs were all there. “I will tell you this, he had every symptom of a heart attack a person can have in the days and weeks prior to this event,” Ashley says. There was jaw pain dismissed by an ENT as a potential sinus infection or possibly arthritis. Then the day before the heart attack Blake suddenly broke out in a sweat at a red light, then developed back pain between his shoulder blades later that night. The next morning came that indigestion, then the heart attack that led to cardiac arrest and Ashley’s life-saving CPR.

“Blake came back around though, he made it through, so that was good,” Ashley says. “I never thought I would have to do something like that at home, or on a family member. But you know, it goes to show, it happens.”

The AHA is committed to transforming a nation of bystanders into a Nation of Lifesavers. Join the movement that can make a difference in the life of someone’s partner, parent, friend, or family.

Family Tragedy Inspires Woman to Become CPR Instructor

Kathy and her sister the day before Genny passed.

By Gina Mayfield

On Saturday, July 3, 2021, Kathy Simpson and her sister, Genny, spent the day celebrating the upcoming Fourth of July holiday with family and friends. The next evening, the two sisters decided to spend a quiet evening in their pajamas, snacking on leftovers from the party and watching Netflix at Genny’s apartment. “There was no indication that anything was wrong. Absolutely nothing,” Kathy says.

Just as the movie ended, Genny got up and walked down the hall to the bathroom. Kathy heard a loud crash. “The next thing I knew I was running so fast and saying, ‘Are you okay?’” Kathy says. She was met with silence. “I think I jumped over the couch. I just got this really weird feeling that something tragic had happened,’” she says. “I opened the bathroom door and Genny’s on the floor. She was unresponsive.”

Kathy frantically banged on neighbors’ doors while screaming for help. “Nobody came. Nobody opened their door. I knew time was crucial,” she says, having remembered a CPR class she had taken decades earlier. She called 911 and started chest compressions. EMTs finally arrived at her door after what “seemed like forever.”

Paramedics told Kathy she had done a great job, then worked on Genny for 20 – 30 minutes, before transporting her to the hospital, where Kathy gathered with the same family she had been celebrating with just the day before. Hours later, hospital staff asked them to step into a small room where a doctor delivered the devastating news that Genny had not survived cardiac arrest. “I’m sure I was in shock, traumatized, everything you can think of,” Kathy says.

She grieved for more than a year then decided she had to do something to honor Genny, who was a certified nursing assistant and a veteran who lost her life on the Fourth of July. Right before her sister’s death, Kathy had relocated to the Atlanta area to be closer to family and grow a business chauffeuring her 65-year-old Rolls-Royce, which was built for Buckingham Palace. “But when my sister died, that fell behind, it was no longer a priority. Saving lives became my mission,” Kathy says.

She found the strength to walk into an American Heart Association Training Center in Acworth, Georgia, which teaches on-site CPR classes. At first, she thought about just taking a class, then decided to inquire about becoming an instructor. She met with the manager, submitted her resume, eventually earned the Basic Life Support Instructor Certification and joined the training center staff in October 2023 as a BLS faculty member.

From there, she did a deep dive into CPR instruction and realized there were almost 4,000 CPR instructors currently employed in the United States. “But when I got down to Blacks, and I realized only 7.3% of instructors were Black or African American, my mouth just fell. I thought that was totally impossible. There’s no way this number could be that low. That was so disappointing,” Kathy says.

She went on to learn that Black or Hispanic adults who experience a witnessed cardiac arrest outside the hospital are substantially less likely than their white peers to receive lifesaving care from a bystander. “That crushed me. That changed everything,” she says.

Kathy made up her mind to reach people right where they were – at home during the pandemic. Realizing that hundreds of thousands of people lived in apartment complexes, she started there. Management teams were more than happy to support her efforts to teach CPR.

Kathy ordered everything she needed – manikins, masks, an AED, DVDs, training books – and began to volunteer her time to provide free Hands-Only CPR demonstrations right there in the complex’s community center. Everyone can afford free and they knew where to go, so neighbors of all ages, from kids to adults, were invited to practice calling 911 and apply 30 compressions on manikins. Kathy even stocked a Life Savers candy dispenser so participants could enjoy a sweet treat once they completed their training. “They didn’t have to leave the comfort of their own home. I came to them,” Kathy says.

Today, she’s teaching and volunteering her time at the seemingly endless number of apartments around Kennesaw State University. “I do this in honor of my sister,” she says, noting she still carries Genny’s photo in her instructor binder as a reminder of the importance of learning CPR.

And so, the crusade continues. “My goals are to continue teaching at the RC Health Services, continue the Hands-Only CPR demonstrations in the community and train people of color to become a CPR instructor,” Kathy says. “Imagine one apartment building. Just think of how many of those there are all over the United States. If we can get out there and offer Hands-Only demonstrations and BLS/CPR training that will be beneficial in a life-saving event for the entire community, we can give all people an opportunity to do something instead of nothing.”