ASHLAND • A local businessman passed out in the Benton County Courthouse Wednesday and had to be resuscitated by Circuit Clerk Kathy Graves.
Graves, said that Leroy Hamer, known to most as 'The Barbecue Man,' had just finished selling pork skins at the Justice Court office around 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18 when he passed out in the hall of the courthouse between the Justice Court office and the Circuit Clerk's office. Justice Court Clerk Felicia Washington saw Hamer fall and called Graves to help with the situation. Graves, a first responder with the Abel's Store Fire Department, performed CPR to help resuscitate Hamer.
"I was just in the right place," said Graves. "I could have been gone, and I was almost gone. I was planning on slipping out about five or 10 minutes early but it’s a good thing I didn't. I think I'm the only one here who knows CPR."
Graves said that first responders from Ashland Fire Department and the Town of Ashland also assisted and that the whole courthouse was in the hall praying for Hamer.
"I am proud of those guys from Ashland. And the Ambulance is next door. It could have been just two minutes (before assistance arrived). But when you're doing that (CPR) and all this is happening, it's like slow motion. Everything is just so slow."
Hamer was taken to Holly Springs Hospital by ambulance and then transported to Methodist University Hospital in Memphis. He was off the ventilator and sitting up Thursday morning.
Graves said at the time of the incident she thought Hamer was having a heart attack but has been told that he had some sort of blockage. She said the first five minutes are crucial when responding to a heart attack victim and usually in a rural area like Benton County, when responders get to a victim, it has been 15 or 20 minutes.
"I am so proud he is alive. I didn’t want to come to work today because I was afraid he didn’t make it. Usually it just doesn’t turn out good. I’ve been a fireman for 20 years and it just doesn’t turn out good.
"It’s just God. Anything that wasn’t in that order - he would have been in his car, or driving. It hit him that fast. It had to be in the right order for him to survive. I’m so glad it worked out"
Hamer is 59 years old and lives in Michigan City. He has been selling barbecue in Benton and Tippah Counties for many years. He has a food truck located at Coleman's Gas Station by Walmart in Ripley and is open most weekends.