Amherst teen George Hamilton earns Red Cross award for saving his mother's life
KEVIN GUTTING Claire Hamilton and her son, George, 13, were watching a movie at their Amherst home last Friday (January 27) when Claire had a cardiac arrest. Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — An Amherst boy who saved his mother’s life last year will be honored as a hero by the Pioneer Valley chapter of the American Red Cross.
George Hamilton, 13, saved his mother, Claire Hamilton, with CPR and a call to 911 after she suffered sudden cardiac arrest Jan. 27, 2012, while the two were home watching a movie.
He will be one of seven people recognized for their life-saving actions at the 11th Annual Hometown Heroes Breakfast later this month in Springfield.
Claire Hamilton, who teaches at the school of education at the University of Massachusetts, said recently that she was able to return to work in the fall and is spending this semester on the sabbatical she was supposed to have a year ago, but which was replaced by a medical leave.
“Everything is going well. It’s not like I’m living moment to moment,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said doctors are still unsure if the heart damage she suffered was caused by a viral infection or is genetic. She continues to see a cardiologist regularly.
She and her son often go to Planet Fitness and she has been able to do some limited hiking, including at Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield recently.
“We did it slowly,” she said.
Hamilton still has restrictions on what she can lift, but she has been able to return to doing most normal activities.
The Gazette reported at the time that George was alone with his mother when he noticed her turn purple and begin to arch her back and shake. She could not speak.
He had seen CPR performed on TV so he started the procedure. After a few minutes he called 911 and got dispatcher Scott Del Pozzo, who stayed on the line with George, instructing him on how to take care for his mother and continue CPR until medical crews arrived.
In a Feb. 4, 2012, article, the tape of that dispatch call is described by reporter Ben Storrow this way: “George can be heard obediently carrying out instructions: laying his mother flat, tilting her head slightly back, making sure nothing is obstructing her airway, checking to see if she is breathing. Though on the verge of tears, George is unfailingly polite to Del Pozzo, who he frequently calls ‘officer.’ ”
Firefighters delivered an electric shock with a defibrillator to jump-start Claire’s heart. She was first taken to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, then to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where she had an internal defibrillator installed.
Claire Hamilton said that time is of the essence in such medical calls and that she feels fortunate an ambulance arrived when it did in a community where paramedics can be diverted for intoxicated college-age people, especially on weekends.
“In Amherst, the matter of minutes determines whether you’re still alive or your brain is still functioning,” Hamilton said.
Others being recognized by the Red Cross this year include:
■ A Westfield fire captain who saved a fellow firefighter’s life after he got trapped in a burning building.
■ A former police officer who pulled a state trooper from the line of fire during a shooting spree in Chicopee.
■ A Springfield police officer who was shot and killed while protecting a woman being assaulted in a domestic dispute.
■ The crew chief of Columbia Gas company whose quick action saved lives when a gas line exploded in downtown Springfield last November.
■ The desk clerk at a Chicopee hotel whose medical intervention saved the life of a badly injured staff member.
Also being recognized this year are students and alumni of Palmer High School, who for 30 years have run one of the largest Red Cross blood collection efforts in the region.
The ceremony and breakfast is from 7:30 to 9 a.m. March 28 at the Mass Mutual Center.
For more information contact Caitlin O’Hara at 413-233-1035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.