Dying was the last thing Seth Lafollette expected on July 13, when he and a friend, Koleman Roach, hit the waters of Poland Creek for a fishing tournament.
Lafollette’s mother, Cynthia McKay, was getting ready to board a plane when the call all parents dread came.
Roach tried to revive Lafollette with CPR after he suddenly collapsed in their boat.
“They said he went into cardiac arrest,” McKay said. “They said he had been taken to a hospital and was put on ventilation.”
Lafollette, 21, a Sevier County utility worker, was healthy and had no history of heart disease before he experienced a ventricular fibrillation, a common cause of sudden heart failure.
The irony that another mother’s quick thinking and skill saved his life wasn’t lost on anyone who was on hand to watch McKay and her husband, Gary, help to award Blount County Sheriff’s Deputy Elizabeth Murphy her Lifesaving Award pin Wednesday morning at BCSO headquarters.
Murphy jolted his heart with two vital electric shocks using an automated external defibrillator before continuing CPR.
“The doctors said that’s the only reason he survived,” McKay said.
McKay’s quivering voice dropped almost to a whisper as she described how Murphy’s skill kept her son from becoming an organ donor that day.
“Thank you for saving my son,” McKay said as she hugged Murphy.
“I’m just glad I was in the right place at the right time,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s children, Jayden, 7, and Jasmine, 6, helped McKay to pin her badge to her uniform.
Were it not for the foresight of Blount County management, Lafollette’s story could have had a different ending.
American Medical Response operations director Jonathan Rodgers said Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell approached the agency to create an emergency medical response program that would allow deputies to perform basic lifesaving maneuvers before an ambulance arrives.
The program also allows those trained to use AEDs to carry one in their car, which can mean the difference between life and death.
“It’s always nice to have a second set of hands that know what they are doing,” Rodgers said. “The good thing about it is, we can plug their equipment into ours and keep going when we get there.”
Lafollette missed work for a period after his crisis, but he’s getting back to normal, his mother said.
“She not only saved his life, he was lucky enough to be able to walk away with no neurological damage,” McKay said. “He walked out of the hospital neurologically intact, and I am so grateful for that.”