Firefighter saves his father’s life

Linda Hicks Originally Published September 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 20, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.
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Jack Hancock Jr., a part-time firefighter in Vilonia and a full-time firefighter in Little Rock, right, put his EMT training to use when he performed CPR on his father, Jack Hancock Sr., left, and saved his life.

Jack Hancock Jr., a firefighter, has responded to hundreds of medical emergencies, but he said the most important was saving his father’s life.

Hancock, 31, of Vilonia is a part-time firefighter in Vilonia and a full-time firefighter in Little Rock. He also served in the military with a tour in Iraq. He was off-duty and visiting his parents, Sheryl and Jack Hancock Sr., who also live in Vilonia, on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

He knew that his father, a 14-year member of the Vilonia Fire Department, hadn’t been feeling well, but the younger Hancock didn’t know the seriousness of the situation.

The father and son were in the kitchen when Hancock Jr. noticed his dad looked pale and was rocking back and forth at the counter. The elder Hancock suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Hancock Jr. used his EMT training and was able to save his dad’s life.

“I caught him on the way down,” he said. “He flat-lined immediately. I started CPR. I did one round of CPR, and I heard the Vilonia Fire Department clearing from a call they were out on.”

The resources and timing, he said, couldn’t have been better. Using his Vilonia Fire Department radio, he called for the department. Within a couple of minutes, EMTs responded and feverishly began working to save the life of one of their own.

Hancock Sr., who is 57, had suffered a heart attack.

“A widow maker is what they called it,” Sheryl Hancock said. “They put a stent in, and we hope he is going to be good as new.”

Hancock Sr. praised the performance of the Air Evac Lifeteam stationed in Vilonia, as well as the emergency surgery staff at Baptist Medical Center.

“I couldn’t have written a script for a movie that played out any better than this,” he said. “Twelve minutes from my house to Baptist. It was 45 minutes from the time they lifted off at my house until the time I was moved to a recovery room. Any hiccup, and it would have been my funeral.”

Entering the Vilonia Fire Department’s training room to a waiting audience earlier this month, Hancock Sr. received hugs and pats on the back. He raised his arms in a victory stance and said, “I survived it.”

He joked with those who performed the lifesaving procedures, saying they may have slipped in a few “extra thumps on his chest.” However, he said he didn’t really remember much about the ordeal.

Other Hancock family members attended the ceremony, which included several outstanding service awards for lifesaving measures in regard to the incident.

Speaking during the event, Sheryl Hancock showed a different type of emotion than her husband. Tears welled in her eyes, and her voice cracked as she thanked those being recognized.

“Thank you for saving my husband,” she said. “Thank you, Chief Hillman, for making sure all the firefighters have proper training. You are all my heroes.”

Vilonia Mayor James Firestone made the 13 presentations. In addition to the younger Hancock, those recognized were Vilonia Fire Department Chief Keith Hillman and department members James Cope, Kevin Wooley, Chad Johnson, David Collins, Jimmy Hoofman, Don Tackett and Ronnie Brewer.

Deputy Jen Hillman of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office also received a certificate, as well as the Air Evac Lifeteam members, Kelle Dunn, Tim Jenkins and Kerry Tate.

“The community may not appreciate you as much as they should or even know the value until you are there in this kind of situation,” Firestone told those receiving awards. “The Vilonia Fire Department, the Vilonia Air Evac ambulance means so much to us. It’s good to know we can depend on you guys.”

Hancock Sr. said he anticipates going back to work soon. He and his son joined the Vilonia Fire Department as a father-son activity about 14 years ago.

The elder Hancock, who retired from the Army in 2010 after serving in both Vietnam and Iraq, said his son was about 16, and they were looking for a community-service project they could work on together. Volunteering at the Fire Department, the father said, suited both. With some training under their belts, they began their firefighting activities. Little did they know then, he said, the impact it would have on their lives.

When asked if his father’s life was the first he had helped save, Hancock Jr. said, “He’s not my first, but he’s my best.”

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