Jefferson Forest High School staff honored for life-saving actions

Employees were able to administer life saving CPR before first responders even arrived on scene

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – Sometimes all it takes is to be in the right place at the right time.

On March 16, that message rang true as employees from Jefferson Forest High School in Bedford County were able to help save a co-worker’s life.

Thomas Garrison, a custodian for the school, went into cardiac arrest in his office. A fellow custodian, Steve Everett, called for help on his radio, and within minutes other staff started to help out.

The school’s nurse, Virginia Davis, quickly determined Garrison’s condition and started administering CPR with the help of Brian Miller.

“We came together and we rocked it out. It was very organized chaos but we talked to each other the entire time, we cheered on each other the entire time, we begged Thomas to keep breathing,” Davis said.

Kelly Thomas oversees health services for all Bedford County Public Schools. Thomas happened to be on campus that day and was able to get ahold of an AED to hook up to Mr. Garrison.

“I definitely don’t think it was by chance … I was meant to be here. It was great to be able to work with the team and give them an extra set of hands,” Thomas said.

After about 15 minutes of being unconscious, Mr. Garrison was able to regain a pulse.

“We were actually exchanging off with EMS and Rescue squad and when they announced it that was when I was able to turn and got a little emotional myself because our part was done,” Miller said.

Mr. Garrison typically does his work outside but that day he was helping a sick co-worker by filling in and working inside. Looking back on the day, Miller said it could have been a worse outcome had Mr. Garrison been working outside.

“Thomas wasn’t even supposed to be in the building. The only reason he was in the building was because somebody was out sick that day and he volunteered to come in and help,” Miller said.

The work of these three employees along with the first responders who came to the school was recognized by school staff and administrators on Tuesday. While Mr. Everett was unable to be at the recognition, Kelly Thomas said he deserves a ton of credit for making the call for help.

“I think he’s the real hero because that is what saved Thomas’ life,” Thomas said.

Mr. Garrison is back home after spending some time in the hospital. 10 News is told he’s getting better every day and the school is ready to welcome him back when he’s healthy.

About the Author:

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.