HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from Forrest General Hospital.
The last thing Ronnie Simmons remembered before collapsing on the ground was how bad he felt.
"I wasn't feeling really good. I was feeling weak. I was walking to the car and that was it," said Simmons.
The 69-year-old Magnolia, Mississippi resident has chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). He and his wife, Melinda, had just left an appointment at Forrest General's Cancer Center and decided to stop by Sam's Club on Highway 98 in Hattiesburg to do some shopping on the way home.
While shopping, Simmons became ill. He told his wife he was going to wait in the car. On his way to the parking lot, Simmons started feeling groggy. Suddenly, Simmons' legs weakened, he stumbled and fell to the ground. He was unconscious with no heartbeat.
A crowd of anxious onlookers rushed towards Simmons. They hovered over him screaming for help.
Curtis "Miles" Hinton, a registered nurse at Hattiesburg Clinic, his wife and baby were sitting in their car in the parking lot.
"We were feeding the baby. When I heard the commotion, I ran over to see what was happening! Simmons was on the ground with no pulse or breath. He was alone – no family or anyone with him. His wife was still inside the store shopping," said Hinton.
Hinton started doing CPR while another woman assisted. Hinton, who formerly worked in the Cath Lab at Forrest General and has more than five years of experience caring for critically ill patients, never expected anything like this. With Simmons in such bad shape, Hinton knew every second would count.
"We didn't have a pulse for about the first 7 to 8 minutes. It was pretty scary," said Hinton.
Moments later Simmons' wife, Melinda, walked out of the store and saw the crowd gathering.
"I didn't know what was going on. As I got closer, I saw Ronnie lying on the ground. I just screamed and ran towards him! There were so many people in the parking lot. They just held me back and asked, 'Can we pray with you?' I said, 'yes,' and we prayed."
Emergency crews arrived on the scene and were able to establish a pulse once inside the ambulance. Simmons' lifeless body started showing some signs of improvement as he woke up on his way to the emergency room.
After spending a couple days in the hospital, Simmons and Hinton were reunited in Forrest General's Intensive Care Unit. Simmons thanked Hinton for saving his life.
"He's my guardian angel. God placed him there to save my life. God used him that day. I'm just thankful he was at the right place at the right time," said Simmons. However, Hinton doesn't consider himself a hero. He said he was only doing what he was trained to do.
"I'm just glad I was there to help. There are so many other places I could have been. My wife and I rarely go to Sam's. In fact, she was supposed to go with her sister, but when her sister cancelled, I left work early and decided to go with my wife," said Hinton.
After running several tests, doctors determined the best course of action was to give Simmons a pacemaker.
As Simmons recuperates, Hinton said he plans to stick by him every step of the way. Meanwhile, Simmons said he looks forward to getting back t a healthy and active lifestyle – now that God has given him a second chance.
"I'm going to go home and eat a little better, walk a little more and pray a little more," said Simmons.