Two off-duty firefighters from Cherokee County on the same day performed CPR on strangers, becoming true heroes to those whose lives they saved.
Lt. John Bennett and Lt. Mike Malone were in different places Aug. 2, but both used the training and knowledge they learned from being firefighters to help out when strangers stopped breathing.
Bennett has been a firefighter for 22 years, and has worked with the Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services for about 15 years. He said that being able to save people is rare.
“It is an amazing feeling,” Bennett said. “I know that it’s rare that you get to get a save, and that you get somebody back when they go into cardiac arrest. It’s a good feeling whenever that happens, to be able to make that much of a difference, not only in the life of the person that you saved, but in their family, too.”
Bennett said that he was at the Medford Funeral Home in Marietta after the death of his wife’s grandmother when a man stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest last Friday, and said the wife and children of the man were there when it happened.
“My wife’s grandmother had passed away and we were at the funeral home in Marietta, and one of the people who was at the funeral home visiting, as they were leaving, collapsed in the parking lot,” Bennett explained. “One of my wife’s cousins came and got me because they knew I was medically trained.”
There was no Automated External Defibrillator available, and Bennett said that he felt kind of helpless without the medical equipment he usually has when he’s on duty.
“When I got out there, they were not breathing and didn’t have a pulse, so I started doing chest compressions,” he said.
The off-duty officer said the local emergency personnel had “an excellent response time,” and that helping the man was a team effort.
“The guy’s son deserves a lot of credit, too, because he stayed calm, he did great, he did mouth-to-mouth while I did compressions,” Bennett said. “We did about three rounds of CPR and the gentleman started breathing back on his own, and regained pulse, and was able to maintain his breathing and pulse to Kennestone Hospital and the last I heard he was off the ventilator and was still in ICU but hopefully going to be moved to a regular room soon.”
Bennett said his training was a blessing that helped to save this man’s life.
“The good Lord blessed me; I was in the right place at the right time to be able to help,” Bennett said. “I was fortunate, I’ve been in paramedic school for about a year and a half now; I’ve been an EMT for 10 years.”
He said that getting notoriety for helping made him feel strange.
“Anybody in our fire department or anybody who’s trained would’ve done the same thing. I just was blessed to be in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Bennett said the man had been a friend of his wife’s grandmother through her church.
“I don’t even know the gentleman’s name,” he said.
Malone said he started volunteering as a firefighter in 1988, and has been with Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services since 1995.
“In my line of work, I’ve realized that you don’t get that many people back, so it was just a ‘right place, right time’ thing,” he said.
The Cherokee County firefighter was out of town working his second job, where he does international and domestic repatriations with Assist America.
“If you’ve ever been on a trip and they offer you extra insurance in case you’re sick or hurt, if you’re out and about … and you’re sick or hurt, that insurance pays for a guy like me to come get you and bring you back home,” Malone said. “I had just got done bringing a patient back from Dallas, Texas.”
As he was checking in at the Delta counter at the Pittsburg Airport and getting his ticket last Friday, Malone said he noticed something was going on.
“I noticed some commotion going on behind me, and got over there and saw a guy laying in the floor,” he said. “There were a couple people around him so I asked what was going on, and they said he was checking in and he was there by himself and just kind of fell out. He wasn’t breathing, didn’t have a heartbeat.”
Having traveled and worked as a firefighter, Malone said that, at first, the situation didn’t seem surprising.
“Sometimes people get sick in the airport, but he didn’t look well from where I was at,” Malone said. “I went over there and there wasn’t any medical personal there on the scene yet.”
Malone said that nobody else was doing CPR, but since he knew how to help, he started right away.
“He would try to take a breath like every 6 or 8 seconds, so I got over there and kind of took charge and started doing things,” Malone said.
Since airports have so many people of all ages and health conditions going through their doors daily, they have AEDs on hand for emergencies, and Malone knew that when the incident happened.
“I knew that there would be an AED there, being an airport,” he said. “So I got him all hooked up to the AED and it gave him a shock, and I did CPR, and I wound up getting a heartbeat back and he started breathing on his own.”
When the Pittsburg Fire Department arrived, Malone continued to assist them with caring for the man before he was transported to the emergency room.
Malone said he had a change in his connecting flight time on the way back home, and had to rush away once the stranger’s care was in the hands of the local emergency services.
“I do not know his name,” he said. “I was going to miss my connecting flight. … It was like an hour sooner than my initial flight was supposed to be, so I had to hustle through to get to the gate and get on the plane.”