PLYMOUTH - Another jiu-jitsu class was just getting started at the Daniel Gracie Self Defense Academy on Monday night when a trio of students saw a classmate collapse on the mat.
Fortunately for that classmate -- the trio were two Plymouth police officers and a Bourne firefighter -- all off-duty.
"You just start doing what you're trained to do," said Plymouth Police Sgt. Donny Reddington.
At first, they thought the man they knew as George was having a seizure -- but they quickly realized the 49-year-old father had no pulse and wasn't breathing.
"When you realize it's a cardiac arrest and not a seizure," says firefighter and paramedic Nick Robbins, "the gears kind of shift."
So, while two of them launched into CPR -- the other scrambled down to the Planet Fitness on the far end of the shopping center, snatched the automated external defibrillator (AED) off the wall, and ran back -- in his bare feet.
"I was fairly confident we had the ability to bring him back," says Sgt. Reddington. "But you never know."
"So, you need the trifecta of effective breathing, circulation -- which is compressions -- and defibrillation," adds firefighter Robbins, "to restart the heart."
Believe it or not -- George was able to greet his classmate-rescuers at the local hospital just a couple of hours later.
Eight minutes of CPR and a pair of jolts from the AED had him conscious and alert for the ambulance ride.
"Definitely a sigh of relief watching him wave," says Sgt. Reddington, "and kind of making jokes on his way out the door about how he ruined the class."
George underwent heart surgery Tuesday night at Mass General in Boston.
And while we don't know specifics -- he sent word to his rescuers in Plymouth beforehand that he fully expected to be OK.
To this point, George has been the beneficiary of a positive perfect storm, considering two of the first responders aren't normally in that jiu-jitsu class -- they just dropped by for an extra workout.
"George is going to go home and have a second chance at life essentially with his 13-year-old son and his family," says firefighter Robbins.
As a rule, first responders' memories of trying to revive people are unsettling -- because so many end in failure. But they're confident this episode will be an exception.
"He went from being completely unconscious -- completely unresponsive," says Sgt. Reddington, "to sitting on a stretcher being wheeled out of this place saying, 'Thank you!'"
And both Sgt. Reddington and firefighter Robbins see a lesson in this for average citizens -- learn to do CPR the right way.
"I hate to say it," offers paramedic Robbins, "but a lot of laypeople don't know how to do effective CPR."