Thomasville Fire Rescue's Lt. Rick Sanders, firefighter Marcus Lee and engineer Ronnie Smith listen as resident Annie Franklin thanks them for saving her life.

Local woman saved by fire rescue personnel sees new side to them

By Teresa Williams

THOMASVILLE — Annie Franklin used to think firefighters only “put out fires.”

Her view changed after Thomasville Fire Rescue personnel responded to a 911 call at Franklin’s Orange Street residence in April. She had no pulse and, with the aid of an automatic external defibrillator (AED), rescue personnel were able to revive her.

“My husband and I had done yard work that morning, but we’d finished and come inside, taken a bath and changed clothes,” Franklin recalled. “I came into the living room and my husband told me I didn’t look quite right. He asked me what was wrong and I said, ‘My head is hurting.’ I put my head on his lap and that is all I remember.”

A family member called 911 after realizing Franklin was unresponsive. Emergency personnel arrived within two minutes.

Thomasville Fire Rescue’s Lt. Rick Sanders, engineer Ronnie Smith and firefighter Marcus Lee were the first on the scene.

“Lt. Sanders and I were the first to reach her,” Lee said. “We checked on Miss Annie, but there was no pulse. She wasn’t breathing, so we put her on the floor, shocked her one time, checked her pulse (there was still none), then started CPR and chest compressions.”

After a few minutes, Franklin began breathing again. Personnel assisted James Hart and Tom Cerbarano with Thomas County Emergency Medical Service in preparations to transport Franklin to Archbold Memorial Hospital. She was later taken to Tallahassee, Fla., for additional treatment.

Doctors told Franklin, thanks to the quick work of her first responders, she did not have any heart damage.

“Doctors told me, had it not been for these fellas, I would not have made it,” she said. “I had to lay eyes on them and thank them for what they did for me.”

Sanders said the rescue was “amazing” and was glad to see Franklin walk into the station.

“It was amazing to see this happen for the first time,” he said. “Then, to have her come in and express her feelings really makes you feel good inside.”

Smith agreed.

“I was very happy when she came in to see us,” he said. “We were very happy when we learned there was no damage to her heart.”

The rescue was unique for Thomasville Fire Rescue because it is the first time personnel were able to use an AED to revive an individual in cardiac arrest. The equipment can only be used when the computer inside the defibrillator recognizes one of two shock able rhythms.

“It’s a high tech computer, basically, that shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm,” Lee said. “The faster we get a defibulator applied to someone, the better their chances of survival. The optimal time is three minutes. We’ve applied the defibrillator a time or two but we’ve never had to shock someone before.”

Chief Bryan Croft said the national trend among fire departments is to expand services, meaning personnel respond to fires and are now also trained to respond to medical emergencies.

“This is nothing new with fire service — it has been going on for 30 plus years — but it takes a long time to reach certain areas of the country,” he said. “It’s taken a little while to get in this area, but is where the service is going. We have to expand as a way of being more marketable and worthy in our community. It’s another way of elevating our game.”

Thomasville Fire Rescue began its medical response plan (to aid local emergency service personnel) in June 2007 and has responded to 440 medical calls in almost a year.

Croft said it makes sense for fire rescue personnel to respond to emergency calls when an ambulance is delayed because they have the same qualifications and certifications.

“We will deliver quick response, quality care and compassionate customer service,” he said. “We are the true first responders to all emergencies and Thomasville Fire Rescue will be the leader when it comes to increasing all services to our citizens. We will give them what they deserve and nothing less, because lives depend on it! There is a true need for what we are doing, and we will continue increasing our training and services for the people we are committed to serve.”

Franklin is grateful for this dedication to community. She said, thanks to her rescuers, she was able to celebrate her 38th wedding anniversary on Friday.

“It is just beyond words,” Franklin said. “Before this happened, I only looked at firemen as people who put out fires. I didn’t know they came to this kind of emergency. I am very thankful they do more than that!”

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