In Pittsford, many are calling long-time mail carrier George Clifford a hero. Last Saturday, Clifford was midway through his 60-mile rural route when he saw something lying motionless in the road.
At first, he thought it was a deer that had been hit by a car.
“As I got closer, it became pretty obvious that it was a person,” Clifford said. “There's a crest of a hill just past where he was so if you’re coming from the other direction, you’re going to crest that hill and he’s going to be right there.”
So Clifford drove his mail truck just beyond the person and parked at an angle across the road to block traffic. “[I] got out and ran over to him. And he’s not breathing, no pulse and I checked on his wrist for a pulse and I honestly believed he’d passed.”
Clifford called 911 and the dispatcher asked him if knew CPR.
“And I said, 'Yeah, I do, but it’s been a while since I’ve had any training,'” he admitted.
Luckily, the 51-year-old had had training. Before joining the postal service, Clifford said he’d been a professional scuba diver who’d taught courses on water rescue. But he admitted he’d never had to do CPR before and was nervous.
Not long after he started chest compressions another bystander ran up to help.
“Right about then the man gasped for air. And I just said, ‘Holy expletive!’ to the 911 operator,” Clifford said with a laugh. “And I said, ‘He just took a breath!’ And the other guy goes, 'He just took another breath and his color’s coming back!’”
Rescue personnel arrived soon after and took the man to Rutland Regional Medical Center. Clifford said by that time, he was an emotional wreck, but he had to finish his mail route, which he admitted took longer than usual.
“I was really rattled,” he said shaking his head. “The worst part of this whole experience for me was not knowing what happened to him because it was a few days before I talked to the family.”
Clifford didn’t know the man he’d helped, 72-year-old Michael Hefner of West Rutland. Hefner was in Pittsford visiting his son’s family and had been out for a walk.
In the rush to the hospital, the Hefners were not told about Clifford’s involvement. It wasn’t until Tuesday that Clifford says he and the family finally connected.
“And then to find out when his son called me that night and said ‘yeah, he came home this afternoon.’ I was elated,” says Clifford. “I can’t tell you how nice that felt.”
Matt Hefner, Michael Hefner’s son, says it looks like his father will make a full recovery and he credits Clifford for saving his dad’s life.
He says the men plan to meet in person this weekend, something Clifford is looking forward to.
“I just want to tell him how happy I am that he’s doing well," said Clifford sitting at his kitchen table. "I don’t want any attaboys or any of that, I just hope the guys’ doing good.”