I Can Think of No More Important Role Than to Save Someone's Life

I Can Think of No More Important Role Than to Save Someone's Life

Rescuer Billy Griggs and survivor Paul Wylie

2015 Nominee – Billy Griggs
Survivor – Paul Wylie, Charlotte, NC, 50 at time of event (April 21, 2015)
Location of event – Outdoor running workout

My name is Paul Wylie. I am a husband, father of three young children, a coach, and figure skater. As an Olympic Silver medalist, I know well what it means to work hard, really hard. I have performed in countless high-pressure situations. Yet, I can think of no more important role than to commit all my mental energies and physical strength to save someone else’s life. That is what Billy Griggs did for me on April 21, 2015.

Billy, a stone mason, husband, and father of a little boy, got up before dawn to attend a men’s outdoor running workout with about 10 other men, including myself. I did not know Billy before that day, but we ended up running a similar pace that morning. I had been keeping a good pace, chatting cheerfully among the guys, so it surprised Billy when he saw me lean over as if to catch my breath. Billy remembers seeing me drop to my knees on the pavement and thinking out loud that I may be ready to lose my breakfast. Then I fell face forward onto the pavement and everything changed. Billy and a couple of nearby guys ran to check on me. When they realized I was unconscious Billy checked my pulse. When he couldn’t find it, a voice in his head rang out, “TIME MATTERS!” 

Several years ago, Billy’s boss hosted a CPR class for his employees. Billy remembered that one fact from the class: ACT FAST. Billy wasn’t sure of the correct CPR, but knew it was better to do something rather than nothing, so he kicked into high gear, telling someone to call 911 and beginning CPR. He continued CPR and begged to speak with the 911 dispatcher. Once on the line, the dispatcher encouraged Billy and paced him as he continued to do CPR to “Staying Alive,” while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. No one knew until later that Billy should have been too tired to continue after a couple of hundred compressions. It turns out, Billy did almost 450 compressions before the paramedics took over (over five minutes). It took several attempts by the paramedics to restart my heart, but once they restarted my heart, I was rushed to the hospital and placed in a cold coma for two days before waking up to learn of my ordeal. The doctors were shocked to find I had no deficits, no signs of a lack of oxygen, nothing. The only damage I had was sore ribs from one brave man willing to act and ACT FAST, even if he had doubts. He was willing to try, and because he tried, I live!

Four months after my heart stopped, I am now living life with my wife and three young children. I am climbing mountains, water skiing, biking, running, and even skating again, thanks to this hero who was willing to give his best for a stranger. Billy Griggs is truly a deserving recipient of the People Saving People Award. 

This picture was taken in the hospital.  Billy came several times to check on me. You can see the cut over my left eye where I fell to the ground. Friends who own a local pizzeria called True threw a pizza party and several of the members of our workout, a representative from the paramedics (Charlotte has one of the top three rates of survival for SCA in the country), and my wife, kids and I celebrated my new beginning.

I had a friend of mine design a special piece of art to present to Billy. It represents a heart and hands, and has the story of the revival of Lazarus written inside the design of the hands. I presented it to him at my first workout back from the hospital, a huge milestone for me, a lifelong athlete.

Nominated by Paul Wylie

See Today Show coverage here.

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