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John Payne (left) and Jimmy Williams (right) at the McDuffie County Fire and EMS after Payne had his cardiac event.

Jimmy Williams is a lieutenant EMT with Thomson-McDuffie County Fire and EMS, and was in the right place at the right time.

Firefighter EMT John Payne was off duty and going to get food in Dearing.

According to Payne, the whole EMT class went to get lunch when the unexpected happened.

“We were actually sitting down at a table, and I was eating and my last recollections was that I was coughing,” Payne said. “The next recollection I had was Jimmy pounding on my chest, and I remember asking him what he was doing”.

Williams was in the right place at the right time as he performed the necessary procedure to make sure Payne was okay and to save his life.

According to Payne, he does not remember slumping over, and being hit in the chest five or six times.

After Payne went to see his cardiologist, she told him that he had a cardiac event. The cardiac event that Payne suffered was called a sinus arrest, according to Payne. This occurs when someone has sinus arrhythmia, and there are normally two types of rhythm that someones heart can go into, neither of them good.

“She basically told me, flat out, that if he hadn’t had done what he did, and no one had been around to help me, I’d be dead,” Payne said.

It could’ve been a different outcome had Payne not gone to lunch with a group of paramedics and an AEMT.

According to Payne, this was the first time he ever had any kind of cardiac event.

According to Deputy Chief John Thigpen, even though Payne was back at work pretty soon, it was a serious event.

Payne has known Williams for a long time and had nothing but gratitude.

“You know what, he did what he had to do,” Payne said. “I can’t tell you how thankful I really am”.

According to Williams, Payne clamped down and turned blue, and his instincts kicked in.

“I treated it as he was choking,” Williams said. “But apparently it was a little more severe than that.”

According to Williams, he has nothing but love for Payne. Ever since Williams became a firefighter, Payne has been a part of that.

“I couldn’t think of anything without, not having him in it, you know what I mean,” Williams said.

Payne has been in McDuffie County since 2006. He started out as a volunteer, then went part-time, and on to full-time.

“I had started out my career as a volunteer,” Payne said. “I wanted to continue volunteering so I came out here to volunteer, and just stayed here because I liked it.”

According to Payne, it started out as him wanting to take a class on hazardous materials, but he had to be a firefighter in order to take the class.

“I probably, like most people, thought all they do is go out and put water on the fire,” Payne said. “Then, I learned that there’s a lot more than that and I just got the bug.”

It only took the first structure fire to have Payne hooked.

“I just can’t imagine doing anything else,” Payne said. “I’ve been doing it for so long, I couldn’t imagine not being a firefighter.”