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Hero Story: American Legion staffers rescue man in medical crisis

When shouts of “man down” rang out and the country music stopped, three of the Bloomington American Legion’s serving staff and a member of the band stepped forward to save a life.

Of the four women to attend to the fallen man, three were related. Tiffany Mason, her mother, Loretta Kelley, and Tiffany’s grandmother Rose Mason, each called upon their varying levels of medical experience to attend to the legionnaire. Teresa Stout, another server, also assisted in what doctors would later describe as lifesaving measures. Tiffany Mason had turned away from the Indiana University men’s basketball game on a television Feb. 9 to see a longtime legion member on the floor of the Burton Woolery Post 18, 1800 W. Third St.

“At first we thought he just cracked his head,” Kelley said, “but then we realized he wasn’t breathing. He’s lucky to be alive.”

Just 30 minutes before, the man had sung a song with Mason Dixie, the Legion’s Thursday night jam band. Tiffany Mason said he’d been dancing when he had a heart attack.

“When I got up there, he had his arms spread out really wide and his eyes had rolled back in his head,” Mason said.

It was then that she called upon her more than 10 years of CPR training. After checking the man’s pulse, Tiffany Mason ripped off his coat and started the first, of three rounds, of compressions while her grandmother — the lead singer for Mason Dixie — performed the respirations.

The women agreed Friday afternoon that the whole event lasted maybe 10 minutes from start to end. “We didn’t think he’d make it,” Kelley said.

Stout remembers the harrowing sound the man made when he did regain his breath.

“It almost sounded like he was drowning,” she said.

In addition to Tiffany Mason’s experience at local hospitals and on the health services staff for the Monroe County Community School Corp., Kelley and Stout used their training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillator use from the Red Cross — something the American Legion provided to about 12 staffers last summer — to revive the man with just one shock.

“It seemed like hours, but it was just a few minutes before the ambulance would come,” Mason said.

According to Mason and Kelley, the man had undergone five bypass surgeries and was still in the hospital. According to Mason, when the man finally woke up in the hospital, he started to sing.

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