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Stillman Valley man honored for saving friend’s life

By Vinde Wells

A Stillman Valley man was honored last week for saving the life of a high school classmate.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle presented the 911 Hero Award to Russell Carlson Dec. 20 for his quick response when Gary Hollingsworth, 79, of Holcomb, suffered a heart attack last summer. 

Carlson credited the CPR training he had 30 years ago when he was a volunteer fireman.

“Taking CPR classes every year was stressed, and I took them,” he said with a smile. “Year after year, as you all know, it can get boring. But I guess it kicked in.”

Carlson became tearful, remembering the August day that he used his skills. 

“I got a second chance - I had cancer in 2002, and I wanted Gary to get his second chance,” he said. “I’ve known him since high school.”

Hollingsworth, who had quadruple heart bypass surgery 19 years ago, said he and his wife were hosting a luncheon at their home when he suddenly was stricken.

“I was reaching for a chair and that’s the last thing I remember,” he said.

911 Emergency Telephone System Board member and volunteer firefighter Rick Mott filled in the details.

He said the Lynn Scott Rock Fire Department got the 911 call at 5:08 p.m. on Aug. 31.

Carlson immediately began chest compressions while another luncheon guest Dorothy Hollandsworth dialed 911.

EMTs Todd Seaworth, Mike Alsup, and Bill Newkirk soon arrived, along with paramedic Chris Kunce.

“By 5:31 you had a normal heartbeat and normal breathing, and that was before you ever got to Swedish American,” Mott told Hollingsworth.

He stressed that Carlson’s early intervention was the key to Hollingsworth’s successful recovery.

Mott said Hollingsworth wanted to meet and personally thank the emergency responders who came to the scene, as well as telecommunicator Brian Symons, who answered the 911 call.

Approximately 30 people attended the presentation held at the Davis Junction Fire Station.

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