Georgia first responders save 29-year old cardiac arrest victim

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The 911 call came in December 9, 2018, a Sunday night.

Daniel Sherrod, a 29-year-old beer distributor, had collapsed at his Paulding County home.

"It's humbling, I guess, would be the right word," Sherrod says.

He recalls nothing about that night or the week that followed.

"I remember asking my mom what happened," Sherrod says. "She told me basically I went into cardiac arrest and died."

That night, Sherrod and his fiancée Gabrielle Hall had been getting ready for bed.

Hall was getting out of the shower when she noticed something was off.

"Daniel was lying on the bed playing with his phone," Hall says. "And, before I knew it, his phone was lying on the floor, and I could just tell something wasn't right. So, I screamed for my mom, who came running up the stairs."

Hall's mother dialed 9-1-1.

"It seems like an eternity," she says, remembering the next eight minutes.  "Time stops."

Hall, whose sister is an ICU nurse, had no training in CPR.

Now, her fiancé’s life was on the line, and it was up to her to save him.

 "I'm no medical person," she says.  "I don't do good with the medical stuff. So, it was really fight or flight."

A couple of miles away, Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service paramedic Bill Walthour, a 30-year EMS veteran, and Advanced Emergency Medical Technician Kasey Rollins, who was relatively new to the job, heard the dispatch alert.

 "We got the call as a 29-year old, down and unconscious," Walthour remembers.

He and Rollins would later be awarded the Northwest Georgia Region 1 "Tommy Gayler Medical Call of the Year," for what happened next.

"I haven't done many bad calls, or tough calls, like that before," Rollins says.  "So, that was my first cardiac arrest."

Sherrod had collapsed on the bed.

But because he's 6'5" and about 250 pounds, Hall was unable to move him to the floor.

So, the 911 operator began talking her through how to perform CPR.

On the recording of that call, she helps Hall pace herself while she performs chest compressions.

"Keep doing that, Gabrielle," the operator says.  "Good job, keep going, keep going."

Lt. Matt Clotfelter and his crew from Paulding County Fire Department Station 3 arrived on the scene first, about 8 minutes after the call came into dispatch.

"We got him on the floor, and started doing compressions on him," Clotfelter says.

Another firefighter grabbed an AED off their truck.

"The AED goes on him and says 'shock advised,'" Clotfelter remembers.  "So we shocked him. Continued doing CPR.  Kept doing CPR."

That is when Rollins and Walthour pulled up.

"It was kind of like an out-of-body experience," Rollins says. "I didn't know how to react to it. I've never seen a call like that that, let alone a call on someone my age."

Guided by the AED, firefighters deliver a shock to Sherrod's heart, then paused.

"They shocked again and looked up at me and Bill and said, 'We've got pulses,' Rollins remembers.  "So, I looked at Bill and I was like, 'All right.  Let's start moving!"

After working together to get Sherrod down the stairs, Walthour and two firefighters worked to stabilize him in the back of the ambulance, while Rollins drove, with lights and siren blaring, to Paulding County Hospital.

Walthour says Sherrod's age may have helped him beat the odds.

"When we have somebody like that, we know we have a viable patient," Walthour says.  "So, time was the most important thing we had."

At the ER, doctors and nurses were waiting.

Sherrod was placed on life support.

Then, as his kidneys began shutting down, and pneumonia set in, Hall and his family held their breath.

"The doctors try to prepare you for, for worst-case scenario," she says, tearing up.

Less than 10 percent of people who go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive.

But, 7 days later, Daniel woke up, unaware of how close he'd come to dying.

"The doctors said I had less than 10 percent chance of surviving," he smiles.  "And, here I am!"

Word spread quickly to Station 3 and Metro Atlanta Ambulance.

 "It gives you a good rush," Bill Walthour says.

Clotfelter says a cheer went up at the station.

"Because that was one of our big things: is he going to be okay, is he going to make it," he says.

Kasey Rollins says this one her first "big one."

"It was awesome, that I was a part of it," she says.

Doctors implanted a defibrillator to shock Sherrod's heart if it goes into an abnormal rhythm.

He's now back at work.

Later this year, Daniel Sherrod and Gabrielle Hall will celebrate their wedding.

Some couples, he says, may have doubts about whether they've chosen the right path.

Daniel Sherrod doesn't.

"I know who saved my life," Sherrod says.  "I know who has been there for me. I know who I love.  So, there is no question in my mind."