First Responders Update

By Kelly Gordon -
President, First Responders

Monday, January 2, 2023 was a beautiful morning, and I was eager to get dressed and go play Pickleball with my group. As I was filling up my water bottle in the kitchen, my First Responder pager went off. The dispatcher spoke very clearly over the radio and said, “Cardiac arrest at the Pickleball courts.” As I have written ad nauseam, a cardiac arrest is time sensitive for obvious reasons. I immediately grabbed my things, and off I headed to 910 Franklin Creek Road as quickly and safely as I could. Upon arrival, I saw a man lying on the ground with many people standing around him. As it turns out, the man was shallow breathing and had a pulse. I noticed the pads from the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) were on his chest and knew at that moment someone had shocked this patient before we arrived... ultimately saving his life.

Paul Schmucker, the man who experienced this incident, agreed to allow me to share his story for educational purposes. As you are aware, without his permission, sharing this information would be a violation of HIPAA. Thank you, Paul, for sharing your story with us.

When Paul and Gerdith Schmucker moved to Skidaway Island back in October of last year from Ponte Vedra Beach, they would never have imagined what would happen less than three months later. Both Gerdith and Paul are avid Pickleball players. Paul immediately began playing with groups on the island as his wife, Gerdith (G), worked on getting settled into their new home. Paul has an extensive cardiac history and always made sure people were aware. Unfortunately, being new here, he had not yet told his current groups. After playing some rigorous ball, Paul immediately collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. I thank the true heroes who saved his life that day. AJ Goldman, who also is a volunteer firefighter, started chest compressions immediately. Alex Fox, the Pickleball professional and a resident, took over compressions when AJ tired out. Skidaway Island First Responder Jim Dwyer ran and got his medical bags, while Janet Eastwood’s son, Brooks Berry, ran as fast as he could to grab the AED. Several bystanders helped by calling 912-355-6688 and assisting however they could until help arrived.

Although my team and the paid professionals from both fire stations arrived shortly thereafter, it was the heroics of the aforementioned individuals that saved Paul’s life. Starting CPR and using the AED are the TWO reasons he is alive today. He was transported to the hospital’s cath lab where a stent was put in and underwent another procedure. Paul is THE ANOMALY. If CPR isn’t started immediately after a cardiac arrest, the likelihood of survival is slim. As we all watched that same night, Damar Hamlin from the Buffalo Bills had a similar event. Had it not been for the quick response team on the field, the outcome would have been grim for Mr. Hamlin as well. I share this story for many reasons. I want to acknowledge the heroes among us, while simultaneously sharing the importance of CPR. When the heart stops, there is loss of oxygen to the brain. Quick thinking is what saved the lives of both Paul and Mr. Hamlin.

I strongly suggest everyone in this community take the time to get certified in CPR. You can even watch a few YouTube videos on basic CPR just to be familiar with the steps involved. On those same lines, IF you have any kind of health history that is pertinent like cardiac issues (including blockages, AFIB, or a pacemaker), diabetes, history of stroke, and even epilepsy, PLEASE share with the people you see and play sports with regularly. Advise them where your medication is, who to call in case of an emergency, or what your preferences are should an incident occur. If the people Paul was playing Pickleball with knew he had an extensive cardiac history, the outcome would have been the same. HOWEVER, that medical history could have been shared with the Emergency Medical Services team and been helpful moving forward. I could not be prouder of the quick thinking and response of everyone on the Pickleball courts that morning.

As most of you know, we have paid personnel on the island 24 hours a day. There are three Paramedics who run ALL EMS calls and work alongside my team. We consider all of them to be our family. One in particular, Dale Simmons, has been working on the island since March of 2011. If you have called us, I can assure you he has been there to help you at some point. Dale has 21 years of experience in Fire and EMS. He also is the Chaplain of Chatham Emergency Services (formerly Southside Fire), the instructor for the Skidaway Island First Responders, and teaches CPR, EMT, and Paramedic classes. Dale retired from Chatham Emergency Services on December 27, 2022. He has been a huge asset to our entire community, and he is already missed so very much. Dale is working part time at Coastal Care Partners and will continue to do training for our group. Please know that his absence is felt by countless people and as the old saying goes, “Whoever gets his job is going to have some pretty big shoes to fill”.

In closing, please put the Skidaway Island First Responders number (912-355-6688) in your contacts on your phone. Use that number for ALL fire and EMS calls. There is no reason that EVERYONE on this island should not know the number to call in case of an emergency. Put it in your contacts under FIRST RESPONDERS so that it’s easily accessible. I also implore you to add it to your favorites, too. It is an honor serving this community, and we hope moving forward, each of you will take the time to pick up and fill out your yellow cards, add the SIFR number to your phone, pay attention to where the AEDs are around the island, and most importantly, never forget how blessed we all are to live on Skidaway Island.

Stay safe out there!


This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website.

Visit to read the original article.