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Honoring our first responders: St. Johns County man thanks heroes who saved his life after he collapsed

911 dispatchers teach CPR to wife over the phone

We shine a spotlight on a profession that doesn't always get a lot of accolades: 911 dispatchers. Someone who is alive because of a dispatcher, shares their story.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Julie Martin said her husband would be dead if it hadn’t been for first responders in St. Johns County. She credits 911 dispatchers for keeping her calm and teaching her CPR over the phone after her husband Jamie collapsed inside their home last year.

“It came on like a bolt of lightning,” described Jamie about that day on Nov. 5, 2020.

While neither knew it at the time, Jamie suffered sudden cardiac arrest. He had no prior symptoms and had worked out with his wife several days a week.

“I don’t remember hitting the couch,” Jamie said.

When he collapsed, Julie called 911.

“She was like an angel in my ear,” explained Julie about the dispatcher who kept her calm and told her where to place her hands, and how hard and fast to push down on her husband’s chest. “It was her voice and me knowing that she’s helping me to save him.”

Julie’s 911 call was recorded, and in it, you hear two dispatchers – not one.

First, Anastasia Williams answers the emergency call. She calms Julie before quickly transferring her to St. Johns County Fire Rescue. That transferred call is then picked up by Rachel Walters. It’s Rachel walking Julie through the CPR steps.

“I’ve had a lot of doctors, nurses who say that I did (save my husband’s life). No, Anastasia did,” said Julie.

In the rush of performing CPR, Julie didn’t know Anastasia wasn’t alone on the line. Julie thought she was hearing Anastasia’s voice explaining CPR.

After Julie shared her story with us, we reached out to the first responders to learn more. That’s when we found out Julie had a second angel helping her that day.

Not knowing about Rachel, Julie and Jamie have always wanted to thank “Anastasia.” They never knew her last name. So we arranged a surprise reunion allowing Julie and Jamie to not only meet Anastasia, but Rachel too.

“Thank you, thank you,” said Jamie as he tearfully greeted them. “It’s amazing. I’m just lucky to be here.”

News4Jax presented both Anastasia and Rachel with Positively Jax Awards.

A St. Johns County 911 dispatcher helped talk Julie Martin through CPR after her husband collapsed. Here's what happened when we showed up to honor two first responders.

We also wanted to honor the rescue crew that showed up at the Martins door – using an AED to restart Jamie’s heart on the way to the hospital.

They are St. Johns County Engine 16, Rescue 16, and Battalion 3.

St. Johns County Engine 16, Rescue 16, and Battalion 3.

“I’ve always had respect for them, but really thank them for what they did,” said Jamie about all the first responders who helped bring him back to life.

“Thank you to the doctors and nurses at Baptist Heart Specialists in Jacksonville,” said Julie.

Jamie underwent triple bypass surgery for three clogged arteries and spent 15 days in the hospital. He has recovered but is beyond thankful for the time he now has to spend with his children and 6 grandchildren – thanks to his wife and all the first responders who saved his life.

News4Jax would love to hear your personal stories about first responders so we can help you thank and honor them. Let us know here.

Dispatchers needed

St. Johns County needs more 911 dispatchers. The county continues to experience dramatic growth, fueling its need for more applicants.

It takes about 5-9 months to train someone, said St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Director Russ Martin. No experience is necessary.

Watch our interview (press play below) with Martin about the position, training and the pay scale. If you are interested in applying, click here and scroll down to careers.

St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Director Russ Martin joins us to discuss the 911 dispatcher shortage and how applicants can join if interested.

About the Authors:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.