They combined to save a life
URBANA — Sharon Barnes had more than one guardian angel on Sept. 22.
They were an observant 8-year-old boy, a caring neighbor and a trained police officer whose combined efforts saved the life of the 57-year-old Urbana woman.
The trio will be publicly honored at a ceremony Thursday afternoon at the Urbana City Building, along with eight other citizens and six other officers whose contributions to helping others and solving crime are considered extraordinary by Police Chief Pat Connolly.
It was actually Barnes' dog, Bailey, that set into motion the series of life-saving actions that Sunday morning.
"I was having coffee with my neighbor and she has a dog and I have a dog," said Barnes, who lives in the 1100 block of Briarcliff Drive.
The dogs had gotten out of the neighbor's yard and were running.
"Mine is a beagle and she follows her nose," said Barnes, who went after her "ornery" charge.
"I got her cornered in Joy's driveway. I picked her up and started carrying her and that was probably the wrong thing to do. She weighs about 30 pounds. She's a little fatty patty," Barnes said.
Barnes set Bailey down but bent over and kept hold of her by the collar as they crossed the street. She was having trouble catching her breath.
"I just had to sit down. I didn't have my rescue inhaler because it was in the house," she said.
As she tried to calm herself with breathing exercises, Jerry Gable noticed her distress.
"My 8-year-old grandson was getting ready to leave. He came running back in and said, 'Mammaw, call 911. The lady across the street can't breathe,'" recounted Joy Gable, 63.
Running to the window to confirm what young Jerry had seen, Gable yelled to her husband to call 911, then ran to her neighbor, propping Barnes up across her legs.
"She was gasping for breath. I said, 'Sharon, can you hear me?'" Joy Gable remembered saying several times.
Thinking that asthma was getting the better of her neighbor, Gable tried to find out where Barnes' "puffer" was.
"She was turning gray and collapsed in my arms," Gable said.
"Right at that time, the police car came up with the lady policeman in it. She started doing CPR and after she started, the fire department got there," Gable remembered.
The officer was Shannon Wolfe, 38.
"I just remember getting a call of a female down. not breathing and turning purple. That's probably the most nervous call I've been on in my eight-year career," she said.
A grateful Wolfe said her training kicked in and she began CPR, her first time ever doing it on a human.
"I had actually taken a refresher course three weeks prior to that," she said.
Wolfe estimated she continued the compressions for two minutes before firefighters took over. Seeing their truck not far behind when she turned on to Briarcliff helped keep her calm and focused.
"I knew they would be there soon," she said.
Firefighters and EMTs got Barnes loaded into an ambulance and to the hospital.
"I remember Joy hollering at me to stay awake and I don't remember what she told me. I do remember she was there until I passed out. The next thing I knew, I woke up two days later in intensive care on a respirator," Barnes said. "They said I had respiratory failure but the funny thing is on Jan. 2, I actually had a heart attack and I had a stint put in. They think I had a heart attack that day (Sept. 22) but it was masked by other symptoms."
Barnes said the heart attack was discovered after she shoveled snow and again, couldn't catch her breath. Feeling her chest tighten, she called 911 herself that time. Not long after her arrival at the hospital, doctors discovered one artery 100 percent blocked.
After a month off from her job at Sam's Club, Barnes said she's recovering well but is still tired.
"I'm ex-military. You get up, dust yourself off and you go on," she said.
Still, she's mindful that it took help to get herself back up.
"If Jerry Junior hadn't been there, I'd be dead. All you hear is about kids doing bad things. He saved my life. Him and Joy and the officer. God love her. She said she had just gotten recertified," Barnes said, recounting her in-person meeting with Wolfe at the police station two weeks after her September ordeal.
"She came in the police department and gave me a big hug and was tearful and very thankful," Wolfe said. "That was the best part of the whole call, knowing she was OK."