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Strangers bond over life-threatening incident along Buford Highway in east Forsyth
Carrie Stone and Darryl Bagwell - photo by Kayla Robins

CUMMING — The first thing Darryl Bagwell asked his angel in the ICU the day after she brought him back to life was if she liked dogs and fudge.

His family has a secret recipe for the latter, and he wanted to make sure she got some.

He doesn’t remember saying that, but he did. In fact, he doesn’t remember much about those few days in the Northside Hospital-Forsyth or about Dec. 29, when he fell off his bicycle from cardiac arrest at Buford Highway and Trammel Road.

“I don’t remember putting on my kit, getting on my bike, airing up the tires, any of that,” Bagwell said. “It’s about three-quarters of a mile to our house from this intersection. Witnesses said I went down like a rag doll. I don’t know if I felt pain. I have no idea.”

Carrie Stone happened to be driving through the busy crossing about one minute later. She also just happens to be a nurse at Northside. “I pulled into the grassy median in front of the QT and put my blinkers on and said, ‘be right back puppies.’”

She had been on her way to the vet with her dogs.

“I could see as I was running up he was purple,” she said. “We didn’t know why he was down, why he fell off his bike. All I knew was that he had no pulse and no blood circulating.”

Stone and the other bystanders turned him onto his back so she could begin chest compressions.

“One of the really great feelings was in turning him over and doing the chest compressions, just within several compressions his color started to change,” she said. “That was great. In that we had a chance.”

Stone did not follow the ambulance to the hospital. She needed time to calm down after the adrenaline stopped and wanted to give the stranger’s family privacy. She got around to taking her dogs to the vet.

The next day, however, she had to work and visited him.

Paramedics had shocked his heart twice in the road to resuscitate him, and she didn’t know if he sustained any brain damage from the fall or lack of oxygen.

“From the beginning he knew who he was,” said Bagwell’s wife, Laura.

Doctors may never be sure what caused the electrical malfunction in his heart, though it could have been an infection.

“It could happen to anybody. He rode 6,200 miles last year. He runs all the time. And his heart is strong, other than this,” she said.

The suddenness of a heart stopping birthed a mission in Stone and Bagwell.

“We both said together we wanted to do something with it,” Stone said. “He is on a mission to get everybody he knows to learn CPR, and I am along for the ride.”

Bagwell said everyone should know CPR and should be willing to help when the times comes. His wife, Laura, is certified, but could only have helped had he collapsed next to her.

“You don’t have to [get] a formal certificate. The neat thing is you don’t need that piece of paper,” Bagwell said. “That’s what we want to point out. You certainly can, and that’s good, too, but you don’t have to do that. Just get through the basics of knowing how to keep that blood flowing.”

Stone is holding informal classes in her neighborhood’s clubhouse. Bagwell plans to teach his cycling friends.

“As simple as that sounds, that’s the most important thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said. “If we can tell our story and one other person learns and saves one other life, then all this is worthwhile.”

If a neighbor is a nurse, Stone said, knock on his or her door and ask to learn how to do chest compressions. Go to websites for the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association and look up how to do them.

“There’s plenty of unused oxygen in the blood that just needs to get moving, and it’s going past the lungs that have residual air in them,” Stone said. “You don’t ever want to look back and say, ‘I wish I could have done something. I wish I could have helped.”

For the record: Stone has received her CPR certification about 25 times.

Their point is you don’t have to have the card to do the actions.

“We just had to give Darryl a chance,” she said.

Bagwell said everything falling into place — that he collapsed in a public place, visible to people who could call 911; that a fire station was almost visible from where he fell; that a registered nurse (who loves dogs) drove past just in time and didn’t write it off that someone else would help — was divine intervention.

“I’ve said this a hundred times now, but absolutely Carrie is my angel,” he said. “I’m a Christian. I believe in God. I believe in angels, and she’s one walking here.”