HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - 2017 Hattiesburg Firefighter of the Year Ricky Sheppard was honored by the family of 7-year-old Mackenzie Holmes for saving her life back on August 18, 2017.
The family presented Sheppard with a plaque and a live performance for his heroic efforts.
"She's not supposed to here but she is. And I thank him every day," says Holmes mother Kelly James.
On August 18, Sheppard was driving down Highway 11. He said he never usually takes that route but he felt the need to go that way.
Sheppard was supposed to be working at the department but called out due to back problems he had been experiencing.
While on the phone with his wife, he saw a car swerve and crash into a tree. He immediately jumped into action.
"I ran down the hill and saw Ms. Kelly holding Mackenzie," says Sheppard. "Mackenzie was limp and lifeless. She was obviously screaming for someone to help."
He says he quickly tried to explain to wife what happened and to call 911. He then ran down to James and explained to her that he was a fireman and an EMT.
"I took Mackenzie from her, laid her down. She had no pulse. She wasn't breathing. [She had] a lot of facial trauma. So, at that time I started CPR."
Because he was off duty, Sheppard says he had no barrier device or any equipment to conduct the procedure.
Sheppard says it took two rounds of CPR to get a pulse from the 7-year-old. Sheppard then started rescue breathing for her until ambulances arrived.
"I rode in with the ambulance to the landing zone to help them out in the ambulance with her."
Mackenzie Holmes was air-lifted to Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children where she spent two and a half weeks in a medically induced coma.
Today, Mackenzie's mother says she suffers from an aneurysm due to the accident but that hasn't slowed down Mackenzie.
She says the two speak often and Mackenzie is very grateful to Sheppard for saving her life.
Sheppard's wife, Stephanie Sheppard, who was on the phone with Sheppard the night of the accident says Sheppard is a hero in her and their children's eyes.
"I also think that the heroic act of him actually putting his mouth on another child, no matter who they are, and breathing life back into another human being is the most heroic thing that you can do," says Stephanie Sheppard.
Ricky Sheppard says through everything, he feels that Mackenzie saved his life in the end.
He says that since the accident, he's gone to check on his back and doctors found no serious issues.