First responders get rare opportunity to connect with those they saved at Lifesaver Awards

Jonathan Roberts • Sep 29, 2019 at 5:23 PM

June 26 began like any other day for Jerry Gannaway, taking to the fairways of Pine Oaks Golf Course just like he usually did — only this round of golf would become anything but normal.

After three holes of golf, Gannaway started to feel a little weak. When he got to the fourth hole, his heart stopped beating and Gannaway lost consciousness. Any other time on any other day, he might not have survived what doctors later said was his second heart attack, but on this day, he was lucky — or rather, fortunate.

“When you have a heart attack, when you go out, you’re pretty much dependent on people around you and how they respond,” Gannaway said. “If there’s any such thing as having a heart attack in the right place at the right time, that would have to be me.”

Within seconds after he collapsed, several bystanders started performing CPR and minutes after that emergency medical personnel had arrived. And on Friday, the seven first responders who helped save Gannaway’s life — along with 29 others — were awarded with a lifesaving medal from Washington County/Johnson City EMS for successfully resuscitating patients in cardiac arrest.

“These guys do so much every day, and rarely do they get to see the fruits of their labor,” said WC/JC EMS Chief Dan Wheeley. “We take these patients, drop them off, and a lot of times we don’t really know what the outcome is.

“This gives them a chance to reconnect with these and see the good work that they do,” he added.

One of those paramedics credited with saving Gannaway’s life took advantage of an opportunity he called “refreshing.”

“It’s refreshing to see that he’s … obviously still got a lot of pep in his step and a lot of living left to do,” said Capt. Brandon Archer. “We don’t see a lot of that in our line of work, so it’s nice to get that back.”

The other six who responded to Pine Oaks, paramedics Chris Crowsswhite, Phillip Davis, Mitchell Walker and firefighters Wade Hardin, Andy Jones and Mark Wilkes were also able to meet with the man they likely didn’t think they’d see again.

After thanking some of the men who responded that day, Gannaway took a second to ask if any of them found the ball he was playing with, adding that before he had his heart attack he was playing “pretty good.”

“I got my life back but I didn’t get my golf ball back,” he said, prompting laughter from everyone within earshot.

And though he’s yet to return to the golf course, he and his wife Leslie celebrated their 42nd anniversary in July, which more than makes up for the time he’s lost on the course.

“I think we’re enjoying our time together just that much more,” Leslie Gannaway said, prompting her husband to interject that they “always have” enjoyed their time together, but that “this is special.”

Both likened the time since the incident as “an extra inning or two,” with Leslie Gannaway saying that since her husband’s health scare she’s “trying to not worry so much about all the silly things like whether the dishes are done or not.”

And as the Gannaway’s started to head toward the exit — the last to leave — there was Brandon Archer waiting for them, fully enjoying a moment most paramedics don’t often get.