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Matt Taylor with his Red Cross award

Taylor’s alertness saves a man’s life

He saved a man’s life.

“I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Taylor said.

The 2007 Hampshire High School graduate was honored for his efforts by the Red Cross along with 3 others who used their Red Cross training in saving the life of the heart attack victim at Shepherd University’s Wellness Center swimming pool.

“I was doing aquatic therapy like I do every Tuesday and Thursday,” Taylor said of the events of Sept. 3.

Taylor works for Pivot Physical Therapy, which rents space at the Shepherd Wellness Center pool on those days for the aquatic therapy.

 That Thursday as he worked with a client, he noticed a man breathing heavy on the side of the pool.

“I didn’t think much about it,” Taylor said. “Then I looked over again and he’s under the water, under the ropes and not moving.”

The physical therapist walked over and found the man unresponsive. Taylor got the attention of lifeguards Isabella Tuzzio and Zach Pfaltzgraff, who jumped in the pool to help the man.

Tuzzio, who had just taken the lifeguard stand, swam to the unconscious man, then Pfaltzgraff arrived with a backboard.

Taylor headed into the office and told aquatics coordinator Andria Leach to call 911. He returned to the pool to help the lifeguards get the victim out of the water.

Tuzzio and Pfaltzgraff started chest compressions and rescue breath on the man. Leach grabbed an AED – an automated external defibrillator – and tried to shock the man’s heart back into action “2 or 3 times,” Taylor recalled. Pfaltzgraff continued chest compressions until the paramedic crew arrived and took over.

“The man was blueberry blue in his face and not responding to the shock,” Taylor said, “and I thought he was dead.”

A few hours later the 4 heroes were notified that the man had survived and was expected to make a full recovery.

“You never really think this stuff is going to happen,” Pfaltzgraff told the Herald Mail in Hagerstown. “You always want to make sure that you do remember what you are supposed to do in those situations.”

When the emergency occurred, Pfaltzgraff said, “I didn’t really think about anything; it was just happening,”

Leach agreed, calling herself on “autopilot.”

Late last month, the Greater Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross gave Taylor its certificate of extraordinary personal action for his role in saving a life. Leach, Tuzzio and Pfaltzgraff each received the Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders for their use of their Red Cross training in the rescue.

Tuzzio said she was surprised by the honor.

“Honestly, it’s just kind of my job,” she said.

The virtual ceremony was part of the Red Cross’s National Lifesaving Awards program on March 25.

Around the time of the awards, Taylor got an even more important recognition at the Wellness Center’s pool while he was working with a student intern.

“A gentleman walked up and asked my student intern if he was the one who saved his life,” Taylor said. “My student pointed over at me and said that’s the guy.”

The meeting was brief, but heartfelt.

“He thanked me and said, ‘If you hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here now,” Taylor recalled. “We hugged and that was that.”

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