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.”

Bystander Renders Aid in Busy Restaurant

By Gina Mayfield

Friday nights for Israel Rodriguez and his family often involve winding down the workweek at a local restaurant. On one cold winter night in late January, they decided they were in the mood for Italian and headed to one of their favorite places. Just as they started to dig into appetizers, Israel sensed that something didn’t seem quite right with the family at the table directly across from them.

“I noticed the lady starting to panic. She’s patting her husband on the back, and she’s got this really worried look on her face. She gets up, starts trying to cry for help but can barely get the words out, then she seemed really afraid,” Israel says. The couple’s two little girls just sat at the table in shock. ”I pictured my family in that situation, if that were me,” Israel says, and he immediately got up to help.

“As soon as I started to walk over there to check on the man, his head hit the table,” Israel says. So Israel rushed over and started abdominal thrusts. On about the fourth thrust, what may have been a piece of ice dislodged from the man’s throat. He looked up at Israel and asked, “What’s going on? What happened?” He had completely lost consciousness.

What happened was that in a busy Italian restaurant with a Friday night crowd, only Israel rushed in to help. No one else stepped up, not even the manager or waitstaff. No one called 911. Lucky for Lee, the survivor, Israel had just completed a CPR & First Aid refresher course as a volunteer in the children’s ministry at his church. He and his wife had been taking life-saving courses for years.

Things settled down that night after the rescue, and Israel checked on Lee’s wife and children and made sure they were all okay. Lee’s family stayed and had their dinner — and bought Israel’s meal too.

In this day and age, Israel says that in an emergency people sometimes first think of recording an event, rather than rendering aid. “But a social media post isn’t going to help anybody in a life-threatening situation,” he says. “That was one of the things that really stood out to me about that night. If I hadn’t helped Lee, I don’t know if he would have had any help.”

Looking back, Israel also thinks about fully trained bystanders who have taken CPR courses, yet still hesitate to act because they’re afraid of hurting the victim. “It’s either you do something and give that person a chance, or do nothing and let them die. Step into action and increase their odds,” he says.      

That’s exactly what Israel did on that fateful Friday. Months later, he and Lee are still in touch. Lee reached out on Father’s Day, a holiday that undoubtedly meant a little more this year, especially to Lee’s two little girls who were with him in the restaurant. “It could have gone an entirely differently way that night,” Israel says.

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.

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.”

Heart-Saving Hero, Not an Average Joe

By Gina Mayfield

On an unseasonably warm evening in rural Maryland, Joe Greco hosted a small cookout for his son Joey’s friend Alex and his dad, John. After dinner, all four guys played a little basketball in preparation for upcoming high school tryouts before the boys headed inside.

Joe and John remained outside, just standing around talking about sports and life, when John said, “You know, I’m starting to feel … .” Those were his last words before he collapsed, and Joe caught him midway down to the concrete floor of the garage.

“Initially, I thought he was having a seizure,” Joe says. “He’s breathing very heavily, his eyes are rolling back in his head and he was convulsing a little bit. Then, all of sudden, he stops breathing.” At that point, Joe ran inside where he instructed his son to call 911 and John’s son to run down the 400-foot driveway to wave in first responders.

Survivor John Holschuh & Heartsaver Joe Greco

Joe started administering CPR – chest compressions and mouth to mouth breathing. John would take a few breaths, then stop breathing again. Joe continued CPR, only stopping to clear vomit from John’s mouth.

Soon enough, Joey ran into the garage with a 911 dispatcher on the line. “She was coaching me, helping me with the timing, she was really just a nice support and comfort,” Joe says. Eventually, she asked him just to focus on chest compressions, but nothing seemed to help.

About that time a local volunteer fireman who had heard the 911 call on the scanner appeared in the garage. “He told me to keep doing what I was doing,” Joe says. About 10-15 minutes after the 911 call went out, EMTs arrived on the scene and shocked John with the defibrillator. Still, not much of a response.

“I remember holding my son’s hand, holding Alex’s hand, in my garage – the three of us saying prayers and yelling to John to fight, to work, to give him encouragement to stay with us,” Joe says. Paramedics used the defibrillator one more time and got a pulse, then quickly transported John to a local hospital with Joe and Alex right behind them.

John’s wife, Dawn, and other family members met them there. Joe returned home and got a call from Dawn around 10 p.m. to let him know that John was in a medically induced coma and they weren’t really sure what his outcome would be. If he didn’t come to within the next three days, they would have some difficult decisions to make.

The next morning, Joe got another phone call. On the other end of the line was Dawn, who said, “There’s someone here who wants to talk to you … .” It was John. The first thing he said was, “Did the old guys beat the young guys in basketball?” He had fought through that coma with his sense of humor still intact.

“The crazy thing is that none of the doctors are quite sure why John had a heart attack,” Joe says. “He’s in very good shape, takes care of himself. He’s an athlete, eats well, he’s not overweight, has no previous history of heart problems. Other than a defibrillator that’s been implanted in his shoulder, they basically told John to go live his normal lifestyle.”

Looking back, Joe says John’s not the only fortunate one. “The company I work for provides first aid and CPR training every two years,” he says. “We’re just very blessed that we had the outcome that we did, because if we didn’t, I know I would have been impacted greatly. One of the things that kept going through my head the whole time was that I wasn’t going to let those two boys witness something tragic. I was giving John everything I had. It was the scariest situation I’ve ever been in my life, but without the training, it would have been worse. I can’t imagine being there, not being able to do anything and feeling helpless, not being able to offer aid to someone who obviously needed it.”

Eventually, things settled down and life got back to normal. After a few phone calls, Joe and John had an emotional reunion while they waited outside during their sons’ basketball tryouts. Both boys made the team, and before a game the coach gave Joe a signed photo of the squad during a presentation to honor his heroic efforts. Of course, he insisted on John and the boys being included too.

“If it wasn’t for that training, if it wasn’t for the teamwork between the two boys helping me, the 911 operator coaching me, the great work that the local EMS team and the doctors at the hospital did, John wouldn’t be with us, and his family would be in a much different position,” Joe says. “I’m incredibly grateful that when a friend needed help, I was able to help him.”

WATCH this story featured by American Heart Association Baltimore & Greater Maryland.

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Massachusetts 911 Dispatcher Provides Over-the-Phone CPR Instructions to Save a Life

On a quiet Sunday morning at the Regional 911 Dispatch Center in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, dispatcher Tara Jones-Nutting answered a call: “911, where’s your emergency?”

The caller, a man named Adam, didn’t know. How could he? Miles deep into a bike ride in the Berkshire woods, he and a friend, Robert, had just glanced back to check on a third buddy only to find him on the ground in full seizure. “We have a very serious emergency,” Adam told Tara, who used geocoding to send professional help. “I don’t know how to do CPR,” Adam said, “please send this ambulance quickly.”

Tara knew they were in a very rural area. “There’s not a lot of house numbers. It’s a back country road, there’s no mile markers, there’s nothing,” she says. “I can clearly remember listening to the man on the ground breathe. I’ve been an EMT since I was 18 years old, twentysomething years, and I instantly recognized the agonal respirations. I told Adam, I’m going to give you instructions on how to do CPR.”

Massachusetts requires all 911 dispatchers to be trained in CPR. Tara’s dispatch center uses the American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support and Heartsaver First Aid programs to deliver its training. And while dispatchers also have access to CPR instructions, Tara had the added benefit of having taught CPR classes.

And so it began. “Kneel by his side and put the heel of one hand in the center of his breastbone … .” After more than 70 compressions, Adam said, “We got something!” The victim began to take big gasping breaths on his own — then stopped breathing. Tara directed them to start five rounds of 30 compressions, followed by two breaths, and explained how to check for breathing — all while encouraging them.

About 14 minutes in, the local fire chief and his daughter, who’s an EMT, arrived on scene, followed by another officer, an ambulance and eventually a helicopter that flew the victim to Massachusetts General Hospital. “You guys did a good job, I’m going to disconnect,” Tara told them, not knowing if she’d ever hear the end of the story.

But later in the day, a paramedic who was in the ambulance called the dispatch center for some statistics. He happened to be an old friend of Tara’s from back in her days as an EMT. So she asked about the call, assuming the victim didn’t make it. “No, he did,” her friend told her. He wasn’t a victim, he was a survivor.

Later, Adam contacted the dispatch center to provide an update. When Tara worked up the courage to talk to him, she said, “Hi, this is Tara from Berkshire County.” He replied, “I’ll never forget your voice.”

Looking back, Tara says she’s talked to people she’s helped revive and save before, but this was different. “I wasn’t there to physically do it, so I had to use my voice and their hands as my hands to get them to do what I needed them to do. This was a whole new, different situation for me.”

She uses an analogy to explain how she approaches teaching someone CPR over the phone. “Imagine walking someone through how to tie a shoe when that person doesn’t even know what a shoe is — and you’ve got your back turned to them. So providing very, very basic, step-by-step instruction — finding the midpoint on the chest, doing the compression and making sure they’re doing it accurately.”

Rescuers Adam & Robert instructed on how to perform CPR to save a friend’s life by 911 dispatcher Tara.

Weeks after this incident the survivor hosted a luncheon for all of the first responders, including Adam, Robert and Tara. “It was just such an amazing thing to see him standing there,” Tara says. “There were a lot of tears that day.”

As it turned out, Adam had taken a single CPR class many years ago. “It’s just so important to have that base level of knowledge, just so that CPR isn’t completely foreign to you when you need it,” Tara says. “I stand firm in the fact that I did nothing that day, those two gentlemen that were with him are the heroes at this call, because if they weren’t willing to do what they did, he would not be here.”