Posted on 11/03/2017
Carole Puryear and Connie Branson
2017 Nominee – Carole Puryear
Survivor – Connie Branson, Madisonville, KY, 57 at time of event (January 4, 2017)

Location of Event – Country Road

My name is Connie Branson, and I would like to nominate Carole Puryear for the 2017 SCA People Saving People Award because she saved my life on January 4, 2017. This morning started off like nearly every morning – Carole and I got up early to get our five miles in, as we were training for four races this year. Roughly four minutes into our walk down a country road in the hills of Kentucky, we saw a car coming around the corner. Like all runners, we got into a single file – Carole in front. This driver slowed down, rolled down his window, and said to Carole, “Miss, your friend has collapsed!”

There I was, laid out in the middle of ice cold asphalt in the corpse position. Initially, Carole thought I was playing a joke – until she approached me and saw my face already turning blue, my eyes fixed on the sky, and my mouth open. Fortunately, Carole had taken a CPR class two years prior to this and began CPR.  She said she was hysterical, crying out to God to help her remember what she was supposed to do. So, here I was – collapsed on the pavement of this country road that just happened to also be right at the entrance of a coal mine. Only a minute into Carole administering CPR, one of the miners, Jason Cates, was leaving work after his night shift. Jason ran over when he heard Carole screaming and saw me lying on the ground. He was a third shift medic for the coal mines, and he immediately took over administering CPR to give Carole a break. 

Within seconds of Jason’s arrival, another miner, Eric Sailing, was leaving and also ran over to help. Jason yelled for Eric to return to the mines and get an AED and the medical team. Back at the mining office, the medical team just happened to all be assembled for their morning briefing. Eric burst through the door calling for the AED and for help. Doug Center, a trained medic for the mines, grabbed the AED on the wall beside him and ran out the door, yelling at another miner to drive him to the front entrance. When Doug arrived, they quickly tried to get the AED pads to stick, but they wouldn’t.  During this process, they had also turned on the AED and saw that the AED flashed “Battery Low.” Thankfully, when Doug left the office with his AED, the nurse ran back to her office and grabbed her AED. She arrived a few minutes after Doug Center had tried his AED and began hooking me up to the second AED.

The whole time this was going on, Carole was crying out to God and praying that God would allow me to live, telling God why He should allow me to live. The coal miners said they heard her pleading with God and were encouraged by her words and said it gave them a sense of urgency and determination – through Carole’s pleading with God, they said they knew they had to do whatever they could to help me survive this. The miners said they knew that whether or not I made it was up to God, but they were not going to give up on me. Carol not only served as my hero that morning, but she also served as an inspiration to these coal miners.

Seven minutes after trying to get the first AED to work, the second AED shocked me. The miners continued CPR until the AED told them to prepare for shock. After the second shock, I gasped for air. Until this point, the miners said I had been struggling for air, but this time I actually took a huge gulp of air and my heart started on its own. They put me in the ambulance and transported me to our local hospital. Shortly afterward, I was taken to a more advanced hospital that was more equipped to deal with situations like mine. I was in the hospital for five days and had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) put in.

I am now 10 months out from my Sudden Cardiac Arrest. As of today, my doctors have not found any reason, other than an electrical short, for my SCA. And thankfully, I suffered no permanent damage. I was at the right place at the right time, and my goal is to make this possible for someone else. My family physician, Dr. Ken Cloern, and I started a Citizen’s Hero Project. Our mayor, fire chief, EMT supervisor, and many others have joined us in our efforts to make someone else’s survival story be as wonderful as mine and to help encourage people not to be afraid to both learn and administer CPR. Once these places of business and high-traffic areas purchase and install AEDs, our local fire department and EMTs have agreed to keep all of these AEDs serviced. 

Carole Puryear is an ordinary person with an extraordinary spirit who saved my life. She was terrified but did what was necessary in that moment. If she had not initiated CPR on that day, I probably would not be writing this letter, nor would we have been able to complete those four races we were training for on that cold January morning. Because of her knowledge and quick thinking, I am alive!  Carole will always be one of my heroes, which is why she is most deserving of this award.

Nominated by Connie Branson