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Tenn. responder's CPR training saves friend

SOUTHHAVEN, Tenn. Josh Wright didn't see the punch or hear the splash when his friend fell into the murky waters of Pickwick Lake, but he knew what to do when they finally pulled Lee Allison into a boat.

"He was in full arrest," said Wright, 25, a lieutenant with the Horn Lake Fire Department.

"All his limbs were blue. He had no pulse in his carotid artery and he was not breathing. Technically, at that point, he was dead."

Wright said he immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation - CPR - and then began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when he was joined by Michael Porter, a reserve paramedic from Germantown.

Allison, 24, had been hit in the temple as he stood on the edge of a boat at Panther Creek, a gathering spot for young boaters at Pickwick, on the afternoon of May 26.

Alabama Marine Police arrested Garett Blaine Pecanty, 20, of Corinth, Miss. He was charged with public intoxication and second-degree assault in connection with striking Allison. Pecanty was subsequently released from the Lauderdale County Jail in Florence, Ala., after posting bond.

Allison was knocked unconscious with a small concussion. As he hit the water, his body drifted underneath the boats that were tied up.

"Michelle Scott got everyone's attention," Wright said Monday as he recounted for the first time the events. "She started yelling, 'Lee's in the water, Lee's in the water and he's not coming up.' That's when everyone started diving in, looking for him."

At the time, Wright said he was a couple of boats away in a large raft with maybe 30 boats tied together in full party formation.

"Lee was down for maybe five to six minutes and he was in bad shape when they pulled him in," Wright said.

"I didn't have time to think about it - I just reacted. I checked to see that his air passages were clear and wiped the blood away from his mouth.

"Michael Porter was continuing the CPR compressions and it was just bedlam - people were going crazy, screaming, asking if he was going to be all right.

"I yelled at everyone to step back and let us do our jobs. Then it got awfully quiet. I think that's when they realized that this was not a game."

CPR compressions, done in rhythm at about 72 compressions a minute, force the heart to continue pumping blood through the body.

Wright's mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was blowing air into Allison's water-logged lungs.

"After about four to five minutes, I finally got a reaction," Wright said, a small smile registering on his lips.

"Lee coughed up some water. It was a good feeling, but we continued working on him. He still wasn't able to breathe on his own."

Other boaters had called the Coast Guard and a police boat arrived that took Allison to a spot where an ambulance could rendezvous.

Wright said Porter went in the boat with Allison and his sister, Courtney Allison, both of Southaven.

"He said that I should go because I was Lee's friend, but I told him that he should go because he was a paramedic and he'd had more training than I had.

"It was a rough trip - a boat ride of about five miles. When the ambulance crew saw Lee, they called for a helicopter to take him to a hospital," Wright said.

Allison was taken to the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, where doctors put him in a drug-induced coma and placed him on a ventilator - forcing air into his lungs.

Allison came off the ventilator Sunday morning and is now recovering at the Tupelo hospital.

"It just wasn't his time to go," Wright said reflectively.

He said he was embarrassed by all the praise he and Porter received from Allison's family.

"They acted like we were heroes, but to us, we were just reacting - doing the jobs we'd been trained to do."

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