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Youre never too young, or old, to save a life
Residents recount using CPR to rescue others in dire need
Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell, left, reads a proclamation during Thursday afternoon’s meeting recognizing Hall County Fire Services personnel for saving the life of fellow firefighter Russ Cronic. Standing in front of the Hall County Board of Commissioners from left is Jason Deaton, Tim Spain, Cronic and his wife, Lorraine.

When it comes to measuring a lifetime, most people tend to think in years.

In the case of a medical emergency, minutes and heartbeats may be a more appropriate measure.

A scant 60 seconds can make the difference between life and death, which is why many medical professionals say it is crucial that everyone learns CPR and other life-saving skills.

Three recent instances illustrated this after lives were saved by quick thinking and the proper training.

‘Something made me get up’

"Every shift and every morning I go for a run," said Russ Cronic, a Hall County firefighter.

"The last thing I remember about that day is starting our run. We made about eight laps around the fire station."

After those first few laps around the building, Cronic stumbled, then fell after suffering a heart attack.

Ordinarily, no one would have been around to notice. Thankfully for Cronic, on that June morning, he was accompanied by someone who knew what to do in an emergency.

"The night before, for some reason I decided I would run with him. I don’t normally. I usually do it on my own," said Jason Deaton, a fellow Hall firefighter.

"I remember the alarm clock going off and thinking about not getting up, but something made me get up. I guess it was the good Lord."

Seeing Cronic fall caught Deaton off guard, but not unprepared.

"At first I didn’t know what was wrong with him. As soon as I rolled him over, I could see on his face what was going on," Deaton said.

"I sprinted into the station for help. I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast in my life. When we got back to him, that’s when he was in full cardiac arrest.

"Paramedic (Tim) Spain did rescue breaths and we all jumped in as we normally would, until (the ambulance arrived). It was very quick. Probably about three minutes passed."

What happened in those few minutes is what doctors are crediting with helping to save Cronic’s life.

"The point of CPR is to maintain the blood flow to the brain. For each minute that passes without CPR, your chance of survival decreases by 10 percent," said Dr. Mohak Dave, vice chief of emergency medicine at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

"(Cronic’s) life was saved because of early CPR and defibrillation. More lives can be saved by having more bystanders trained in CPR."

If no on around Cronic had known CPR, for those minutes he laid waiting for help to arrive, his chances of surviving would have been about 70 percent. With CPR guidelines changing to focus primarily on chest compressions, instead of compressions and rescue breathing, more people are more likely to seek out certification, Dave says.

"There’s no longer the requirement of doing rescue breathing, which significantly increases the chances of a bystander doing CPR. The most important thing you can do is chest compressions," said Mohak, who is also the Georgia Emergency Medical Services Region II director.

"Research shows that where you go into cardiac arrest affects your chances of survival. In certain parts of the country, your chances of survival are better because more members of the public are trained in CPR and there is more access to automated external defibrillators."

The actions of the firemen and rescue crew stationed at Hall County Fire Station No. 2 in Clermont was acknowledged Thursday by the Hall County Board of Commissioners. The commission presented the station’s crew with a proclamation recognizing its efforts and encouraging more people to become CPR-certified.

"I don’t think you’ll ever be prepared for it to be one of your own, but we treated the situation like we would normally," Deaton said.

"Afterward, you start feeling the emotion of it."

‘Everything changed so quickly’

For first responders on the clock, being called to help someone in distress wasn’t out of the ordinary, but Shelley Hannon’s call to duty came after hours.

Last month, Hannon was at a community pool in Gwinnett County when she helped rescue a 7-year-old girl from a near-death experience.

"We were at the pool visiting with friends when this little boy said, ‘Dad. Look at that.’ The next thing I heard was the man screaming," said Hannon, who is a nurse practitioner with the Northeast Georgia Heart Center in Gainesville.

"The little girl was at the bottom of the pool. I had just noticed her a few minutes prior because my 6-year-old was talking to her. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, look at him making friends.’

"Everything changed so quickly."

The bystander whose son spotted the girl dove into the pool and pulled her to the surface.

"I don’t really remember everything that happened. My husband says I took her up out of the pool with one arm," Hannon said.

"Then I started barking orders like I was in the military. I said, ‘You call 911. You breathe and you pray.’ She was gray, her eyes were rolled in the back of her head and she didn’t have a pulse.

"No one should have to see a child like that."

It took about 15 minutes for paramedics to arrive. The whole time, Hannon and her friend, Christine Nicholas, were administering CPR. Thanks to their quick thinking, the 7-year-old Dacula resident has made a full recovery.

"I have probably been CPR certified for 18 years. After all of these years and never having to react in a situation like that, you think, ‘Gosh, I wonder if I remember everything,’" Hannon said.

"But it was clear as day to me what I needed to do. It really was a God thing."

‘I was surprised at how calm I was’

Learning lifesaving skills isn’t just something that adults should do.

During a recent trip to Woodruff Scout Reservation near Blairsville, members of Gainesville-based Boy Scout Troop 15 saw that they, too, could be lifesavers during a whitewater rafting excursion.

"There were about eight of us in the raft and I felt something fall out of the boat," said Nigel Smith, a Troop 15 scout.

"I looked around and saw that (Assistant Scoutmaster) Chris Williams wasn’t in the boat anymore. I saw him beside the raft, so I put my hands on the sides of his vest to pull him in."

With the help of fellow scout Cameron Drake, Nigel was able to pull Williams to safety.

"I didn’t panic," Smith said. "Afterward, I was surprised at how calm I was."

Both scouts credit the lifesaving training they received in scouts with helping them keep a cool head during the emergency.

"Every year at camp we have to do a CPR demonstration," Cameron said.

"You always have to think in terms of how you will use all the skills you learn because the boy scout motto is to ‘Be Prepared.’

"So during the CPR demonstrations and the water-training, I always pay attention, so that I can know what to do."