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Mystery 'angel' performs CPR after runner has heart attack on Roanoke greenway

Mystery 'angel' performs CPR after runner has heart attack on Roanoke greenway

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While three others called for help, an “angel” appeared for Joseph L. Salmon Saturday morning after he collapsed on the Roanoke River Greenway.

Salmon, an instructional coach with Hurt Park Elementary, was 15 miles into a solo run when he began having a heart attack near the Franklin Road bridge. Minutes later, a Blacksburg woman trained in CPR came to Salmon’s aid, said David Hurley, Salmon’s partner.

“She was the angel who helped him,” said Hurley, a retired Roanoke teacher. “She was only in Roanoke because her daughter was taking a test at North Cross [School]. And she thought it was such a nice day, so she thought she’d go for a walk.”

Hurley doesn’t know the woman’s name, he said, as he misplaced her contact information. Cheryl Nicely, a retired Roanoke teacher, said she gave Hurley the woman’s information after a friend responded to a Facebook status Nicely had posted, saying the woman hoped to find out the condition of the man she had helped. Nicely said Tuesday afternoon that she didn’t have the woman’s name available.

The woman, Nicely said, first thought Salmon was part of a CPR certification course being conducted outside.

“At first she thought he was a CPR dummy,” Nicely said. “There were three people standing there. One was taking his pulse, one was calling 911, and the third person was praying. She thought, ‘Well, it looks like they’re doing everything right except I haven’t seen them praying in class.’ ”

Roanoke Fire-EMS workers arrived minutes later and were able to restart Salmon’s heart after using a defibrillator twice.

Hurley said he might not have found out what happened had he not called Salmon to find out why he wasn’t home yet.

“We both have IDs to wear, but we didn’t have them engraved,” Hurley said. “When he went to the hospital he was registered as John Doe. I called and they said, ‘The person you’re calling is in the emergency room.’ ”

Hurley said Salmon is a marathon enthusiast who often runs alone on more secluded trails.

“Sometimes he runs up on the mountain or on the parkway,” he said. “If he had chosen to run up there that day, he would be dead.”

Though both Hurley and Salmon run to relieve stress, Hurley said Salmon’s work-related stress coupled with the loss of his Lab-basset hound mix, Sheba, may have contributed to the heart attack, Hurley said.

“Joe loves the kids at Hurt Park. He absolutely loves the kids,” Hurley said. “He is a hard worker and gives 150 percent. But there’s lots of pressure to pass [Standards of Learning] tests.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Salmon was in intensive care at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Hurley said Salmon seems to be recovering well after he underwent a medical process that cools body temperatures by several degrees to minimize the effects of heart attacks. A lung specialist said Salmon no longer needed his care Tuesday morning.

“Maybe this afternoon or tomorrow morning he’ll be out of intensive care,” Hurley said.

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