A young woman walked into the home of a man who couldn’t remember that they’d met.
George Gaetan greeted her with a hug.
“You look great. How are you feeling?” asked Kasey McPherson Chester.
It had been nearly a month since they’d last been together, and on that day, Gaetan had been minutes from death.
Gaetan, 55, suffered a heart attack Feb. 12 while working alone at the Dollar General store he manages on Bethelview Road.
Chester, 27, was a customer in line when Gaetan collapsed. She immediately began performing CPR, a skill she had known for nearly 10 years but never used.
Chester said afterward that she was just in “the right place at the right time.” But for Gaetan, their meeting was filled with “stars aligning — a bunch of them.”
About a month later, the two gathered with their spouses and Gaetan’s co-workers in somewhat of a reunion at his home. The get-together was organized by his wife, Susan Gal.
Without Chester’s quick response, Gal believes she wouldn’t be sitting next to her husband of 21 years.
“The doctor said if she did not give him CPR, he would have been gone,” she said.
Others in the store were screaming or calling for help, but Chester acted “without any hesitation,” said Gal, recalling what she’d seen afterward on the store’s security camera footage.
Chester continued for about eight minutes until first responders arrived, Gal said.
Chester described the experience as “so scary” and “an absolute blur.”
As a dental hygienist, she renews her CPR training every two years. Still, practicing on a dummy is nothing like the real thing, said Chester, who works in Cumming and lives in Dawsonville.
She happened to stop by the Dollar General that day with her mother and 14-month-old daughter to look for a picture frame after getting a photograph taken that morning.
When she saw Gaetan fall, she feared he was having a seizure, but went to help the only way she could.
“If it were my dad or my mom, I would pray that someone would do the same thing,” Chester said. “That’s how it’s supposed to be, helping people out. That’s why we’re here anyway.”
Gaetan cracked jokes, shed tears and simply said “thank you” as the two talked.
He had no symptoms leading up to his silent heart attack, which is also called “the widow maker.”
Gaetan is recovering from open heart double bypass surgery one day at a time.
He feels his life was saved for some purpose. In the meantime, he’s simply thankful to be alive.
“It’s like one of our customers says all the time when I ask him, ‘How are you doing?’” Gaetan said. “He goes, ‘Another day. Sure beats the alternative.’”