In the course of 24 hours, two lives were forever changed thanks to the quick actions and courage of a pair of local heroes.

In the course of 24 hours, two lives were forever changed thanks to the quick actions and courage of a pair of local heroes.

Two separate incidents placed local citizens’ lives at risk in Palmyra. But Jonathan Thomas and Nurse Gigi Lehenbauer each knew what to do when emergency struck on Tuesday, Jan. 3 and Wednesday, Jan. 4. Thomas and Lehenbauer were recognized with plaques during surprise award presentations from Marion County Ambulance District (MCAD) personnel Tuesday, March 7.

Thomas recalled how the events played out when he witnessed a fellow employee fall to the ground and stop breathing as they were loading fence posts.

“So my training kicked in, obviously being a firefighter and first responder, and I administered CPR to him right away,” Thomas said. “You know, I lost him three times, and got him back all three times. I’m just blessed that he’s still with us today.”

Representatives from MCAD and Marion County 911 presented Thomas with a plaque of appreciation at Mast Automotive. MCAD Chief John Nemes said they planned to present 911 dispatchers who responded to each call with certificates of appreciation, too.

Nemes noted that the 911 dispatchers who responded “are one of the most important parts of the chain of survival” with their behind-the-scenes calm responses, instructions and work along with first responders and emergency personnel. The next surprise stop was at Palmyra Elementary School, where Nurse Gigi Lehenbauer helped saved the life of a parent who was having trouble breathing in the line of cars in front of the school. The parent collapsed in the office, and Lehenbauer used the school’s automatic external defibrillator and performed CPR until emergency crews arrived. She commended the team of parent educators, who quickly stepped in with coordinated responses to help her.

“I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for all of you guys,” Lehenbauer said. “I’m super glad that it worked out the way it did... We’re all here for a reason, and I think we’re doing it. So thanks, guys.”

Lehenbauer also thanked Paramedic and Marion County Ambulance District Board President Dot Lake, who gave her CPR training. Lehenbauer remembered that one month later, she choked up as she told Lake what happened. Lake said that was the first call she received like that in 40 years.

Lehenbauer wiped tears from her eyes as she reflected on how happy she was to be a part of the Palmyra School District and what a difference it made to save a parent’s life, noting “God’s not done with her yet.”

“It’s probably the hardest job I’ve done, but it’s by far the most rewarding,” Lehenbauer said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at