One of the first paramedics in Washington County — and the first to use a defibrillator in the field to restart a person’s heart after she collapsed — has died.
Jim “Doc” Jones, 64, passed away early Saturday morning at the Johnson City Medical Center, apparently from complications related to pneumonia. He began his career in emergency response in 1974 and worked nearly 40 years for what eventually became Washington County/Johnson City EMS.
Jones told the Press in a 2009 interview that “it’s been a good ride,” when he looked back on his career.
Many credit him with playing a big role in the initial push to provide emergency first responder service to the city and county.
“Doc was instrumental in starting the original Ambulance Authority for Washington County,” said Dan Wheeley, executive director for EMS. “It went from transporting people in a hearse to providing emergency first aid.
“Through the years he was a paramedic, but even after he got off the truck he still loved it.”
When Wheeley joined EMS 17 years ago, Jones had already moved from serving as a day-to-day paramedic into a more administrative role. But that didn’t dampen Jones’ push to always make the service better.
“It really excited him, even though he was off the truck, to see the progress of EMS. He had moved into a more administrative role when I came here … but he was always pro-EMS and providing that service to the community,” Wheeley said. “He helped make EMS what it is today.”
In his administrative role, Jones served as the public information officer for EMS and worked closely with local media organizations to provide information about emergencies as well as to promote the EMS’ mission.
In a 2009 interview, Jones recalled the first time he and his partner at the time, Allen Taylor, used a defibrillator in the field.
“We got a call about a woman with chest pains at a beauty shop. Before we got there she had collapsed,” Jones said.
When Jones and Taylor arrived at the scene, the woman was on the floor with no pulse. They hooked her up to a new device on their truck, a heart defibrillator.
“She was in fibrillation, which means the heart is quivering and not moving blood,” Jones said. He and Taylor had just received the training on the machine, but this was “real life,” he said.
“We put the paddles on her and shocked her. We looked at the monitor and there was a normal rhythm. We felt her pulse and she had a pulse and then she started breathing on her own,” Jones said.
On the way to the hospital, Jones radioed ahead to the doctor, who apparently had a hard time grasping what had happened. When Jones and Taylor arrived at the emergency department, a large crowd of nurses and doctors had gathered to see the patient for themselves.
Jones was a well-known patron at Numan’s in downtown Johnson City, where he participated in the Tennessee Poker League for the past 10 years. He also participated in the World Series of Poker on two occasions.
Aside from stories of past emergency responses and his poker playing, Jones was also known for his love of his wife, Sherry, who was an emergency room nurse at the Johnson City Medical Center when they met.
Jones often called his wife his “rock” and said she was his best friend. He also always carried with him a piece of advice from his father, which he shared in that 2009 interview.
“My dad always told me to never have a job that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning,” Jones said.
Jones’ family will receive friends Tuesday from 1 p.m. until the service at 3 p.m. at Morris Baker Funeral Home.