For five years, Harold Evans and his wife Sarah had been walking laps without incident at Rock Creek Park’s gymnasium in Dawson County, Georgia, as part of a regular exercise group. “They come in every day about 6:30 a.m., quarter of 7,” Billy Mahaffey, maintenance supervisor at the park, says. One fateful April day, Mahaffey opened the gym as usual, greeted the Evanses and went about his normal routine. “I went around back, and when I came back out [Harold] was just lying there.” It quickly became apparent he was suffering a heart attack. Mahaffey observed the Evans’ friend, Peggy Anderson, who had joined them on their morning walk, attempting to give chest compressions as Sarah Evans administered mouth-to-mouth, “but she was just a petite thing and I could see she wasn’t pumping his chest hard enough,” Mahaffey says. In a subsequent interview with Dawson News, Anderson said she feared for her friend’s life. “I thought he was going to go. It was bad,” she said. Mahaffey continued his efforts until paramedics arrived on scene — it was the first time in his 13 years of employment at Rock Creek Park that he’d needed to use his CPR training, and he admits the experience shook him up. “I knew [Harold] — he’s a Baptist preacher in town,” Billy says. “[An experience like that] gets to you when you know somebody. Every morning I check on him now. I ask him, ‘Harold — you alright?’” Billy was awarded a plaque of recognition from the Dawson County Board of Commissioners to honor his heroic, life-saving actions. “It was emotional no doubt,” Billy says of the ordeal. “But I feel good, I’m doing good. [Dawson County Parks and Recreation employees] also had update on our CPR training since this happened — it’d been a few years since we had it updated, but everybody has their training now.”
Marissa Bracamonte is an Editorial Intern for Parks & Recreation magazine.