Meridian boy's quick thinking saves grandfather's life

By Staff
CLOSE CALL Justin Skelton, 10, of Meridian, displays a cell phone as he sits on the edge of his grandfather's hospital bed at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center. When Gary Hill blacked out while driving his truck, Skelton pulled a cell phone from his grandfather's pocket and called for help. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Dec. 1, 2003
Ten-year-old Justin Skelton, dressed in camouflage, squirmed in the passenger's seat of his papaw's pick-up truck.
He tried to stay calm and remember what he was supposed to do in case of an emergency. His younger brother, 4-year-old Connor, sat next to him with his hands covering his face.
Gary Hill, Justin's grandfather, was stretched out next to him, motionless in the driver's seat. Hill slipped in and out of consciousness.
Suddenly, Justin remembered his instructions.
He bolted from his seat, snatched a cell phone from his grandfather's front pocket and pulled out a piece of scratch paper where he had scribbled his mother's number. Then he phoned her for help.
After monitoring Hill, doctors at the hospital detected up to a four-second pause in Hill's heartbeat. Hill, 60, a retired Meridian firefighter who has had three open-heart surgeries, credits his survival to Justin's quick reaction.
The close call happened Nov. 23, the day after deer season opened. Hill said his two grandsons were dancing with anticipation to go hunting.
So, he offered to take them. He loaded his all-terrain vehicle on a trailer, hooked it to his pick-up and began a short drive to a Kemper County hunt house. Before they left, Hill told Justin to write down his mother's phone number in case of an emergency.
And then they pulled out of Meridian and headed for Kemper County. As they neared Marion on U.S. 145, Hill blacked out.
Justin used the cell phone to call his mother and tell her what happened. He then helped his grandfather park the truck and waited for his mother to arrive.
His mother drove Hill to the emergency room, where the family waited.
Justin, a fifth-grade student at Poplar Springs Elementary School, said he doesn't consider himself a hero.