Daughter Ann Bratton feared she wouldn’t spend another Thanksgiving with her mother, Lavenia “Sissy” Woodall, who suffered a heart attack in July.
Woodall survived, thanks in part to Rutherford County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Rigsby who started cardiopulmonary resuscitation with Bratton giving rescue breaths.
“I’m so thankful,” Woodall said Monday when she met with Deputy Rigsby. “Thank God you were there.”
Woodall is a special education teacher at Siegel High School while Deputy Rigsby just earned a promotion as a school resource officer at Smyrna Elementary School. Bratton and Rigsby were students at Oakland High School when Woodall was a teacher there before transferring to Siegel 11 years ago.
Her ordeal began about 10:15 p.m. July 12 when Woodall chatted with Bratton on the phone. Bratton heard her mother make a “gurgling sound” and didn’t respond so the daughter hung up and called 911 before driving to her mother’s home on Sulphur Springs Road.
Sheriff’s Office telecommunicators directed Deputy Rigsby to the home from his location one-half mile away. He found Woodall and began CPR with Bratton doing rescue breathing until Sgt. Brandon Cisek brought an automatic electronic defibrillator that gave instructors to shock Woodall. She responded by gasping for air.
“She came back the very first time,” Deputy Rigsby explained.
Paramedics treated Woodall while Deputy Rigsby drove the ambulance to Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital where she was on a ventilator for eight days.
Doctors told Bratton and her sister, Candyace Bounds, their mother might have extensive heart damage. A priest prayed over the unconscious Woodall. Her daughters stayed at the hospital while family and friends visited.
“You didn’t know if she was going to live or die. She finally woke up,” Bratton said as a look of relief crossed her face.
Woodall doesn’t remember much about her days in the hospital but knew she wanted to live for her daughters and watch her grandchildren graduate and marry. She did remember the doctor saying, “I’ve just witnessed a miracle.” She didn’t suffer any heart damage.
Deputy Rigsby told Woodall Monday that was the second miracle he’s experienced. He and his wife, Cahly, explained their son, Jo Jo, suffered water on his brain when he was three weeks old. Jo Jo is now a healthy 8-year-old.
After Woodall returned home, Deputy Rigsby called her and they agreed to meet. “You could see it on his face – the excitement I lived,” Woodall recalled.
When Woodall recovered and returned to Siegel High School Nov. 4, now-SRO Rigsby greeted her when she arrived.
“It meant the world to me Joseph,” Woodall told him Monday. “I will never forget it. I knew it was good. Thank you. “I’m very blessed and I’ve always known it,” the teacher said. “I am so blessed to have you in my life. You are a part of me now.”
Woodall said Deputy Rigsby kept up with her progress from the beginning. “People need to know the kind of officers Sheriff (Robert) Arnold has on his staff,” Woodall said. “I’ll never forget this.”
SRO Rigsby asked Woodall to call if she ever needed him. “Hopefully, I won’t need you for that (heart attack) again,” Woodall responded with a smile.