By Gina Mayfield
It was one of those mornings. Every parent knows the drill: You’re running behind, then a child decides he’s not on board with the usual morning routine, one thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re three hours late for work.
That was Patty Hill’s experience one hot August morning. Shortly after she finally arrived for her shift at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, she stepped aside to take a phone call from her mother. Minutes into the call, Patty heard a cry for help.
Then another. At that point, she quickly said to her mom, “I’m gonna call you right back,” and said to herself, Let me see what’s going on.
What was going on was the manager of the food court, Ms. V, as she’s affectionately known around ATL, was laid flat out on the ground. She had hit her head as she fell on the concourse and was completely unresponsive.
At first it appeared as though a young woman was administering aid, but upon closer inspection, Patty realized that wasn’t quite the case.
“I looked at her as she was checking for a pulse … with her thumb,” Patty says. At that point, she knew she had to intervene. “I was like, uh-uh.
I tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Step back, baby.’ Once I got down there and used my two fingers to find there was no pulse, I started chest compressions immediately.”
Because of airport security requirements, Patty had routinely carried a see-through bag to work, one that clearly displayed her bright orange resuscitation mask pack.
A coworker had once jokingly asked her, “Why do you carry that?” Patty responded with her usual quick wit. “You never know, I might have to give you all mouth to mouth one day, and I ain’t putting my mouth on y’all,” she laughed.
As it turned out, the very same coworker who had questioned the contents of Patty’s purse happened to be standing feet away from Patty as she administered chest compressions.
“Go get my purse,” she instructed between compressions. “Go get that orange thing out of my purse.”
Being at a busy airport full of passengers, it wasn’t long before a doctor and nurse came running over. The doctor used that orange mask to deliver breaths, while Patty and the nurse took turns deli