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Pair lauded for saving a life

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Kingsley Thomas stands with, from left, his grandfather James Murphy, mother Tarica Howard and grandmother Hazel during his 2018 boys basketball Senior Night. In September, Thomas and Howard saved Murphy’s life.


One moment James “Grandpa” Murphy was talking about what he was going to put in his smoker and the next moment he woke up in St. Agnes Hospital.

In between, Murphy stopped breathing for about 15 minutes. He was kept alive by his grandson Kingsley Thomas, a 2018 Madera South High School graduate, and his daughter and Kingsley’s mother, Tarica Howard, a Pershing Elementary School Preschool aide.

“The doctor ran over and told me I had to thank my daughter and grandson because they saved your life,” Murphy said.

On Sept. 1, Murphy passed out, stopped breathing and was revived. Eventually he received a pacemaker and is currently doing well, gaining strength each day.

“We were all in my bedroom,” he said about that day. “I was talking about what meat to put in my smoker. I passed out. I am telling you what I was told because I don’t remember. I stopped breathing and my heart stopped. When I woke up, I was in St. Agnes. When I realized what was going on, I was raising hell. I had tubes stuck in me, an IV line in me and wondered why was I here. I was devastated when they told me what happened. I calmed down really quick. It was so freaky. I don’t remember anything.”

However, all of the parties can attribute the Madera Unified School District’s CPR training as a reason Murphy’s life was saved.

“They didn’t know what was wrong with me after I passed out,” Murphy said. “When I stopped breathing, they flew into action. They knew what to do because they just finished CPR/first aid classes. They took over the whole situation until the paramedics got there. Kingsley was on my chest and Tarica was giving me mouth-to-mouth.”

“That CPR training helped me big time,” said Thomas, a 2018 recipient of The Madera Tribune’s Sportsmanship Award. “I was calm and knew what to do. I wasn’t distracted. I was just focused on him. My grandma was running around. Going through that moment, I knew what to do. I never though I would have to go through that.

“It was crazy and the scariest 15 minutes of my life. When we went to the hospital, they told me I saved his life. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily I was there and not gone fishing.”

“What I have to be thankful the most is because I work for Madera Unified School District as a preschool aide at Pershing Elementary School, we had CPR training and I did not want to go,” Howard said. “I missed the first one. They did another one for me and thank God I went to the training. This happened right after the training. Things just kicked into gear when it happened.

“I called my job to thank them for sending me to the CPR training,” Howard said. “With that, I saved my dad’s life. I was really grateful for my job to give me another chance at CPR training. Immediately, when it calmed down, I called my secretary at the school and thanked her so much. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t go to the class. It just all worked out.”

Murphy, who has been an assistant girls basketball coach at Madera South High School for many years, said he had a triple bypass before, but didn’t know why he passed out.

“They don’t know why my heart rate went down,” he said. “I had to have a pacemaker put in. It was the most humbling thing after I woke up at St. Agnes and found out what happened than I have ever been through in my life.”

When Murphy was finally able to see his lifesavers, emotions took over and the tears flowed.

“My emotions were high,” he said. “I just grabbed Kingsley, held him and cried. They kept me alive for a good 10 minutes before the paramedics got here.”

Murphy is now thankful that he, along with Kingsley and Tarica, took the CPR/first aid classes needed for coaching or teaching.

“It’s a great thing they took the class,” Murphy said. “I will never complain about taking those classes. I will never complain about life and the problems I’m having.”

“I’m not going to skip the next class,” Howard said. “I’m going to be the first one to sign up and might even bring people with me. It was worth it. I’m very grateful that I was able to help.”

Since the incident, Howard hasn’t left Murphy’s side.

“My daughter hasn’t left my side,” he said. “She hasn’t even been home. She’s here watching her daddy. I thank God for both of them.”

“I haven’t left his side,” Howard said. “I’m afraid. In my head, I’m thinking what if it happens again. I’m just by his side because I don’t want something like that to happen again.”

Fate also intervened on that day. Although it’s tough to find a silver lining when one is taken to the hospital after not breathing, but Murphy is also thankful that Howard and Kingsley were with him, although they both could have been elsewhere.

“I’m thankful they were here when it happened,” Murphy said. “Kingsley likes to go fishing a lot. If he decided to go fishing and my daughter wasn’t home, I wouldn’t be here. For some reason, my daughter decided to stay here. It was a nice day and Kingsley decided to stay home.”

“It worked out,” Howard said. “I just walked in the door and I was talking about him to barbecue. He went into a daze and I thought something was funny. I went to the kitchen to get a can of soup, but I came back and he fell down and wasn’t breathing. The training kicked in.”

“Luckily, I was at home,” Thomas said. “I was going to go fishing because it was a nice day. I was home chilling. I walked into the room and I heard my grandma screaming. I went to check and my grandpa was unconscious. That was the longest time I’ve seen him unconscious. I was thinking about what to do. My mom was giving him mouth-to-mouth. It was crazy because we were calm. I was doing the heart. I was doing it for about 10-15 minutes and listening to what they were telling me on the phone.”

“We were very calm,” Howard said. “Something else took over our bodies. We went into robot mode. Everything was out the window and it was it wasn’t even our dad. We were just saving someone that needed help. We worked as a team.”

Murphy, who had a pacemaker put in at the end of September, is still working to get his strength back.

“I’m still a little weak,” he said. “The body takes a little time to get used to it is what I’ve been told. I still have some dizzy spells. They are tying to get me to a specialist. I may have an inner-ear problem. I almost fall. I have to take it carefully, now.”

If the high school basketball team gets back to action this year, Murphy said he might take a year off to watch Kingsley.

“I look at life differently, now,” Murphy said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to coach this year. I think I’ll watch Kingsley coach. He’s coaching Desmond eighth grade girls basketball. The biggest thing I need to is build my strength up. I’m sick of the house. The weather is starting to change and I can get out more.”

Thomas is coaching basketball at Desmond Middle School and will also help out with the Matilda Torres girls basketball team.

“Most likely, I will be helping at Torres,” he said. “I was thinking about doing JV or freshmen, but I told (varsity girls basketball head coach Jose) Villalobos I would just help out. I really want to help working with the middle school kids. I want to stick with them more.”

In the end, Howard and Thomas were thankful for the CPR/first aid education they received.

“I’m very grateful that I was able to help,” Howard said. “I urge people to take those CPR classes in the future. I needed that CPR training and it worked.”

Murphy just wants people to know that his daughter, Tarica, and grandson, Kingsley, are heroes.

“I wanted to let people know about the hero that graduated from Madera South,” Murphy said of Kingsley.

“I can’t describe being called a hero,” Thomas said. “I flash back to that day and think what if I had gone fishing, he wouldn’t be here. I have no words for that.”



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