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Heroic measures save prison guard in distress

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LEHIGH COUNTY (WOLF) -- A prison guard at SCI Coal Township in Northumberland County is lucky to be alive today after a life-altering experience.

He says on-site medical staff used a defibrillator five times and continuous CPR, and eventually got a pulse.

It's a cliche term in news stories: "lucky to be alive," but for Cory Hernandez, this phrase really holds true.

"With what I went through, for how long I went through it, I was looking at about a two-percent chance," says Hernandez.

It all started last Friday at work. The corrections officer was on break at the officer dining room, finished his meal, and pushed his tray aside, when suddenly something strange happened.

"The only thing I know is what I was told. Basically, one second I was talking and the next second, I was slumped over in my chair," says Hernandez, 36.

A food service manager, John Snyder, picked up the story in a letter posted on the DOC Facebook page, saying, "I sat and watched helpless for 20-30 minutes as this young man's life appeared to slowly slip away. But that was not an acceptable outcome to your staff, and they were not going to stop until they brought him back."

"One after another they swapped out, exhausted from CPR, and the next person took over," says Snyder's letter about the experience. "We watched as they shocked him, screamed his name, slapped his face and continued CPR over and over again."

"We stood with tears in our eyes, thinking about his family, thinking about our families, and just how fragile life is. It was after this 20-30 minutes that the miracle we had all hoped for happened, they detected a pulse," says Snyder.

"Nobody quit, so that's why I'm still here," says Hernandez, who feels "overwhelming gratitude" and is pondering the "what-ifs."

From the ground, Hernandez helped helicopters land while serving five years in the Navy, but he never flew on one until the ride from the hospital in Shamokin to Geisinger in Danville.

That ride is the next thing he remembers after his conversation in the lunch room.

He was later told he had an enlarged heart that wasn't working at its best and he suffered an "aborted sudden cardiac death."

"It was aborted because they stopped it," we said. "They stopped it. They brought me back," says Hernandez.

Hernandez just got out of the hospital on Wednesday and says he is getting better every day, and it's all thanks to those who worked so hard to save him.

Now, he has an implanted defibrillator in case of any other troubles, and says he plans to live a lifestyle consistent with his "new piece of hardware."

"So many people worked so hard without giving up, to make sure I pulled through," says Hernandez, tearing up.

He is now recovering and should be back to work within two months.

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