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How Hall County firefighters helped Sgt. Jonathan Barton after cardiac arrest
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Sgt. Jonathan Barton, right, is hugged by Lt. Jerry Palmer following the 49th Hall County Fire Services recruit graduation ceremony Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Lanier Technical College Ramsey Conference Center. - photo by Scott Rogers

Hall County Fire Services Lt. Cory Pritchett took a call around 2:40 p.m. Feb. 11 from longtime friend and co-worker Sgt. Jonathan Barton.

Barton needed a cardiac monitor. And he needed paramedic Lt. Jonathan Cannon to come.

Pritchett asked what was wrong, but there was no response on the other end.

“That was the worst day of my life, honestly, with the background that me and Barton have and just the emotional connection that we have,” said Pritchett, who attended rookie school with Barton. “I was in disbelief. I couldn’t believe it was Barton, but we train for this type of event and luckily that training took over.” 

Barton went into cardiac arrest at the Hall County Fire Services Training Center and was rushed to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville. The transport took 3 minutes and 21 seconds, Cannon said.

Barton spent two weeks in the hospital before being discharged Tuesday, Feb. 25. He attended the Recruit Class 49 graduation Friday, Feb. 28, at Lanier Technical College’s Ramsey Conference Center, shaking hands and taking hugs from dozens.

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Jonathan and Jessica Barton enter the Ramsey Conference Center to applause Friday, Feb, 28, 2020, to attend the 49th Hall County Fire Services recruit graduation at Lanier Technical College. Barton is recovering from cardiac arrest earlier this month while participating in training with the recruit class at the Hall County Fire Services Training Center off Allen Creek Road. - photo by Scott Rogers

“I remember waking up in the hospital and that’s it,” he said. “I don’t remember anything from that day at all. I just know what they’ve told me.”

Firefighter Chris Rexroat said he was going through the workouts with Barton that day, which included sets of stairs and calisthenics. Rexroat noticed Barton was getting sick during the rounds, and he eventually sat out.

Later during the day’s training, another firefighter called on Rexroat about someone going down, and he found Barton unresponsive. 

“The feelings were there, the emotions were there, but something took over to just do what you were trained to do,” Rexroat said.

Pritchett said multiple Hall County personnel stood at Barton’s side until he was discharged.

“It’s been humbling to see how everybody has come together,” Barton said.

His wife Jessica Barton wrote a letter to the Hall County Fire Services that the department shared:

“In the midst of something tragic something beautiful was happening. That feeling hasn’t been felt in a long time and it was thick (in) that room. I can tell you that every fireman and wife that walked through those got reassurance that if they were ever in that situation that same brotherhood stood behind them. I’ve always been one to appreciate the good that comes from bad events. I intentionally seek it out as a way to make sense of the situation. I can already see the good and I think this deep sense of brotherhood is here to stay. We all take a part in making that happen,” Jessica Barton wrote in one section.

Barton was able to come home and see his kids — a 7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter — for the first time in 10 days.

“They were glad to see their dad. The little girl is definitely daddy’s girl, so she was happy to crawl up in the recliner with her dad and snooze,” Jessica Barton said.

Barton was able to go this week by his station, Station 8 on Gaines Ferry Road in Flowery Branch, and see his shift.

“I needed it. It was refreshing,” Barton said.

Regarding his recovery, it could be several weeks to several months.

“It’s not a very common occurrence with the type of emergency that he had for somebody to bounce back the way that he did, and it was definitely a blessing and an act of God that it happened,” Pritchett said.

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Sgt. Jonathan Barton, right, chats with Jock Connell on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, following the 49th Hall County Fire Services recruit graduation at the Lanier Technical College Ramsey Conference Center. Barton is recovering from cardiac arrest earlier this month while participating in training with the recruit class at the Hall County Fire Services Training Center off Allen Creek Road. - photo by Scott Rogers
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