Catholic Central assistant football coach saves man’s life with CPR

As an assistant football coach at Catholic Central High School, George Woods is required to be certified in CPR.

He just thought he’d never need to use it. Until Wednesday afternoonwhen he used his training to save a man’s life.

Woods was headed to football practice around 2:30 p.m. when he came across an accident scene about two blocks north of John Street on South Limestone Street in Springfield. When he stopped to see what was going on, he found that a vehicle had veered into a front yard and saw a crowd of people surrounding a man who was apparently suffering a medical emergency.

“I wasn’t sure what was going on,” said Woods. “Someone said the guy had run off the road and they found him slumped over his steering wheel. And when they got him out (of his vehicle), he didn’t have a heartbeat or pulse.

“There was a guy attempting to do CPR,” Woods continued, “and I could tell he didn’t know how to do it correctly, so I asked him if he knew what he was doing and he said ’no.’ So I jumped in and did some chest compressions.”

Woods said the driver “was a younger guy” in his late 30s to early 40s.

“It was probably three or four minutes and then one of the Springfield police officers showed up,” Woods said. “And then maybe 45 seconds later, the paramedics arrived. And just as they arrived, I heard him kind of gasp and I could tell he was breathing again.”

Woods works full-time at Oesterlen Services for Youth in Springfield, where he actually received his CPR certification from long-time Catholic Central girls soccer coach Mark Derr.

“Thank God that I had come across it when I did,” said Woods. “It was a great feeling, to actually get a response out of the person. It was pretty exciting.”

Springfield police said the driver was transported to Springfield Regional Hospital and later walked out against medical advice. Police said he was charged with OVI and failure to control.

Woods had been coaching for Central in some capacity from 1984-2012 before taking a few years off. But he came back this fall to help long-time friend Mike McKenna, who had taken over the football program after Irish coaching legend Steve DeWitt retired.

“It put me in the right place at the right time,” said Woods, who coaches running backs and defensive backs for the Irish. “If the guy would walk up to me in the streets and say thanks, I wouldn’t know him. I wasn’t paying much attention to his face. That adrenaline just flows. After the adrenaline wears off, you kind of have an exhausted feeling.”

Of course, after all the excitement, Woods went on to football practice.

“They were all excited,” said of the players’ reaction. “They were joking with me, saying ‘You are a hero.’ When I walked out on the football field (to start practice), they were all clapping.”

Catholic Central Athletic Director Dan Shay said the odds of having to use CPR as a youth coach are very slim. But you never know when you’ll need to use it, be it on a family member, friend … or stranger.

“It comes in handy, that’s for sure,” said Shay. “We are very proud of him, and very excited that he stopped when he saw someone in need and did a good deed and ended up saving a life.”

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