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Nurse saves Tenn. firefighter with CPR

By Sherri Drake Silence
The Commercial Appeal

MEMPHIS — Memphis firefighter Kenneth Richmond found himself on the flip side of lifesaving last week.

Although his memory of the day is blurred, Richmond went to Bon Lin Middle School on Aug. 18 to check out his kids for an orthodontist appointment.

He was chatting with the front office staff at about 3 p.m. and had written his first name on the sign-out sheet, when the 41-year-old father collapsed in cardiac arrest.

With ink pen still in hand, Richmond slammed onto the tile floor, landing on his back, unconscious.

What happened next has been described by those who were there as the result of divine intervention.

“I like saying that the Lord put everything in place for me to still be here,” Richmond said Monday, recovering in his Arlington home.

Also in the office that afternoon was cardiac nurse Dawn Graves, who was there to check out her son for a medical appointment. If she hadn’t sent him back to his classroom to get his backpack that he forgot, they would have been gone when Richmond collapsed.

“I just heard him hit the floor,” said Graves, a nurse at Methodist North Hospital.

She quickly dropped to his side and rubbed his chest and patted his face. His eyes were open and he was breathing, but he was out of it. He was sweating heavily.

She started performing CPR as an office staff member called 9-1-1. Assistant principal Jeremy Yow, also trained in CPR, quickly grabbed the defibrillator the school received last year. (As of July 2008, all Shelby County Schools have defibrillators.)

They calmly followed the instructions on the device, alternating between electrical shocks through pads on Richmond’s chest and CPR.

Bartlett Fire paramedics arrived within three minutes and gave Richmond additional shocks on the way to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. He was released Friday, with a monitored pacemaker in his chest.

Richmond said he’d been to a heart doctor recently because he was having irregular heartbeats and was scheduled to see a rhythm specialist two days after he collapsed.

He praises everyone who helped him and encourages all businesses and organizations to have Automated External Defibrillators.

“If they didn’t have the AED to shock me, I probably wouldn’t be here,” Richmond said.

Shelby schools received defibrillators through donations from local municipalities and Kiwanis clubs. They cost about $1,800 each.

Principal Russell Dyer said thinking about the “what ifs” from that day is “scary,” but it was amazing to witness.

Serbrina Richmond, the firefighter’s wife, said she’s grateful that she made that orthodontist appointment for her kids, who usually ride the bus home from school.

Had she not, daughter Kennedy, 13, and son Kenny, 11, would’ve likely found their father passed out.

“It was like angels watching over my husband,” she said. “He is a living miracle.”

Copyright 2009 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.