Johnny Young of Port Royal is one of those rare people who knows what it’s like to save a life.
He was on routine duty as assistant chief of security at the Long Cove Club residential development on Hilton Head Island when one of the biggest moments of his life arrived with no warning.
He’s been working there for 33 years, but this involved only 90 seconds.
He was working the front gate, waving cars through, when someone wheeled up on a utility vehicle and said, “Mr. Johnny, come quick!”
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Young said this is what he saw next:
A man working nearby had been knocked flat from an electric shock. He was working for a tree-trimming company, helping unload mature trees that would replace some of the trees lost during Hurricane Matthew last fall. A backhoe lifting the trees from a flat-bed came in contact with an overhead power line, or came close enough to send a jolt down through the worker’s body, exiting through his foot. It resulted in cardiac arrest.
When the cry for help came, Chief Willie Rice told Young to grab the automated external defibrillator from the patrol car parked by the gate.
When Young got there, someone was pumping the man’s chest. Young applied the pads, the man’s body lurched straight up in the air, and when he came down his heart was beating.
When Young looked up, Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue teams were there. They worked on the man as Young went back to work at the gate. The man he helped save was taken to Hilton Head Hospital and then to Augusta for treatment. Four or five days later, he and his wife called the Long Cove security gate to thank Young.
“I thought he was already gone,” Young told me later. “You felt the pain of everyone there. At that moment, all you wanted was for that man to live.”
Chief Rice said a lot of things had to work together for a life to be saved.
Long Cove has nine defibrillators on the property, and Young and others are trained by the American Red Cross to use them. But it was fortunate that the patrol car was right there, and that the incident happened so close to it.
“At the end of the day, the good Lord was working with all of us that day,” Rice said.
But he also said Young didn’t panic.
“It was a pressure situation, a do-or-die situation,” he said.
Hilton Head fire marshal Joheida Fister said the incident is a measure of the health of the community as a whole.
“In 2017, we have saved four of five witnessed ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrests,” she said. “Witnessed VF arrest is believed to be the most accurate barometer of the strength of a community’s chain-of-survival.”
Since 2010, that survival rate on Hilton Head is more than 40 percent.
In 2012, Hilton Head won the Heart Safe Community Award from the International Fire Chiefs Association for its out-of-hospital resuscitation efforts.
That depends in large part on people who are not health professionals.
On this day, it was a 58-year-old career security guard who knew what to do. He’s one of us. Young was reared in Port Royal by Horace and Lillie Mae Young. He went through Mossy Oaks Elementary and was in the class of 1976 at Beaufort High. His wife, Yvonne, works in the office at Port Royal Elementary School, and their daughter Diamond is a sophomore at Beaufort High.
“It left me thinking that I got trained to do something,” Young said. “I was trained to help someone live again. I wanted to do whatever I could do within my power to help him live again. It was one of the biggest moments in my life.”