Emergency crews celebrate actions that saved the life of Hogansville man

Published 9:31 am Friday, March 1, 2024

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A Hogansville man is alive today thanks to his son-in-law and the teamwork of emergency medical professionals in Troup County.

On Thursday, representatives from American Medical Response (AMR), Troup County Fire Department, Troup County Sheriff’s Office, Hogansville Police, and Troup 911 to celebrate the actions that saved the life of Hogansville resident and former longtime city employee John Wagner.

Wagner worked for Hogansville for 42 years before he retired in 2022.

Wagner ended up being saved in part by his daughter’s coworkers at AMR. Wagner’s daughter, Stacey Elkins, an AMR paramedic who was recently promoted to captain, had been out of town when her father collapsed due to cardiac arrest on Jan. 6, 2024.

While Capt. Elkins was out of town, her father experienced cardiac arrest and needed lifesaving attention. Fortunately, Wagner’s son-in-law, TCSO Jail Sgt. Erik Dorrough had been at home with him and noticed that he had collapsed so he began CPR.  He continued chest compressions until Elkins’ colleagues at AMR and other first responders could arrive and take over, helping save her father’s life.

Dorrough said that he learned CPR techniques through his employment with the sheriff’s office. He said he has had to use it in the past but never on a family member.

There are completely different emotions when you’re doing to save the life of a family member, he said.

“The fact that it was a successful thing for my father-in-law makes it a little special. My wife, she gets to spend more time with her dad,” Dorrough said. “We can smile and laugh about it now but it’s something serious. [People] really need to know how to do CPR. You don’t have to be certified but you need to know who to do it.”

Dorrough said he has been certified in CPR but you have to keep up with it annually to remain certified because the recommendations can change.

Elkins said it feels great to know that it was her colleagues at AMR who helped save her father. She said she has worked for AMR for five years and had only recently been promoted to captain right before her father’s near-death experience.

“It feels great to know that it was one of ours. We work hard and we do this for a lot of people. Sometimes it works out and sometimes no matter what we do it doesn’t turn out this way. So it’s pretty awesome to be able to see all the hard work from everybody paid off,” Elkins said.

Wagner said it was good to finally meet the people that helped save his life. He said he doesn’t remember anything from the day he collapsed until he woke up two days later. Even then he had difficulty remembering things shortly afterward, but he said the brain fog has mostly cleared now.

Troup County Fire Chief Michael Strickland said this incident is how emergency services should work.

“This case is a perfect example of the teamwork that it takes to have a successful outcome like this, from early notification through the 911 system that allows the operators to talk somebody through the steps of CPR, to dispatching the appropriate units,”  Strickland said.

Sometimes police get there first or sometimes fire or paramedics. The important thing is someone gets there and starts CPR, he said.

“CPR in cases like this is extremely critical for a successful outcome of a patient and that was proven here. It doesn’t take a trained professional to do CPR. We preach and we teach public CPR, we offer CPR classes at our fire department, just like every fire department does because we see the importance and the value of CPR,” Strickland said.

Wagner thanked the crew for saving him, even though he still doesn’t remember their heroic actions that day.

“I don’t remember much about that day. Or for the three days afterward. It drives me crazy because I can’t think of what happened. But I just want to say thank you to everybody that was there because if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here now,” Wagner said.

As for Wagner’s relationship with his son-in-law, Erik, he said it hasn’t changed.

“He’s still my hero,” Wagner said.