Ken Wilson knew the sound.
He was at a friend's wedding last year, waiting for the bride to walk out, when he heard someone behind him struggling to breath.
Wilson, with 30 years as an emergency responder, didn't want to turn around and stare, embarrassing the person further.
But as the bride walked in and everyone stood up, he glanced behind him: He saw a blue-faced woman, her head dropped to her chest.
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She wasn't breathing.
Everyone was watching the bride when Wilson slipped out of the pew and went to the ailing woman. She had no pulse.
So, Wilson and one of his paramedic buddies dragged the lady into a nearby foyer and closed the door. Wilson talked to a 911 operator on a cell phone while his wife, an emergency department doctor, helped perform CPR.
By the time the ambulance arrived, the woman's heart was beating again. The seasoned paramedic had saved another life.
But barring any other Johnny-on-the-spot heroics, Wilson is getting out of the rescue business. He worked his last shift Wednesday night -- 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Thursday -- marking the end of a career that's shown him everything from the tragedy of suicide to the joy of childbirth.
It's also a job that's gotten him stabbed, shot at and nearly thrown out of a window.
Wilson kept coming to work, though, caring for patients and enlightening colleagues with folksy wisdom.
"We call him a redneck 'cause he's from the country," said Kim Coburn, a paramedic who has worked with Wilson at River Hills for about six years. "But he just has a lot of EMS knowledge. ... If I was in an accident or had a medical emergency, he would be the one I would want treating me."
Wilson's family moved to a farm in the Smyrna area of western York County when he was 10 years old. Five years later, he became a founding member of the local volunteer fire department.
Wilson was required to take CPR and first aid classes. He vividly recalls the night he finished his CPR course. Three hours later, his fire chief's neighbor had a heart attack and Wilson got the call.
He didn't save the man, but the experience made him think about what he wanted to do with his life.
"I thought a lot about the medical side," he said. "It was exciting. You got a chance to help people ... susually helping people at their worst."
Wilson became an EMT at 18, first working in Cherokee County, but later in Chester, Richland and York counties. He started out making $12,000 a year and paid his bills with two, sometimes three other jobs.
But he couldn't stop.
"This is going to sound odd to you," he said. "But I felt comfortable doing it."
Wilson liked the adrenaline charge of quickly responding to calls. He wasn't stressed, though sometimes scared, like when he was stabbed in the elbow and when someone shot one of his patients as he was working on him.
"All that comes along with it," he said.
He also has funny stories, like the one about the baby he delivered along a highway in Richland County in 1992.
That day, he was called out to meet a car that was headed to the hospital. A woman was having severe stomach cramps. As he checked her vitals and inquired about her medical history, he first asked if she was pregnant.
She told him no. Then ...
"She starts wiggling around saying, 'Oh no, something's coming out of me,'" Wilson said. "And I remember me saying, 'No, lady. Please.' ... All of a sudden, this lady has this baby. It almost slid off the stretcher. We're going 60 miles an hour down the road. I've got the baby -- I grabbed it by the feet between my fingers -- and I'm holding the baby on the stretcher telling my partner to pull over and he's hollering, 'I don't have any place to pull over.' And I'm just telling him, 'Please, stop in the middle of the road.'"
The baby made it to the hospital safely and Wilson put her on a scale.
He still remembers the child weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces, the most memorable of the seven babies he delivered in his 30-year career.
Talk to Wilson's colleagues and they'll gush about a guy who maintains calm in the harshest of environments.
"He can lighten the mood in the back of that truck -- and it takes a really special person," said Vicki Hoffecker, a River Hills EMT. "We had a little lady one night not real long ago ... and it was really funny because she was kind of a cranky little lady. For some reason, she didn't like Ken. And he was trying to do things to help her. And she looked at him and she said, 'Are you a doctor?' And he said, 'No ma'am, but I did sleep with one last night.'"
That kind of humor is what endears Wilson to both paramedics and patients.
"EMS is gonna suffer one great loss," Hoffecker said. "That man is just, he's everything."
Barrett Smith, president of the River Hills rescue squad, said losing Wilson's skills will be tough, but at least the retiring paramedic has offered to serve as an adviser.
"Ken Wilson has forgotten more about the EMS world than most people will learn in an entire career," he said. "The guy is brilliant."
Other than his medical knowledge, colleagues also respect their former director for his strong support of the rescue squads, even taking on county officials when he needed to.
"He's a fighter for the cause," said David Dover, who has worked with Wilson at River Hills for about three years. "He'll fight for the little man."
But Wilson's intense rescue days are done. After three back surgeries, the longtime volunteer can't lift more than 40 pounds.
"Ken's got rods in his back," Coburn said. "He's in pain most of the time, but when he gets on a call, he kind of puts that aside. And I've seen him crawl in vehicles in order to assist the patient, knowing all the time that he's gonna be hurting when he's done. But he's just totally focused on that patient."
Wilson said he's now ready to take on a different cause: Coaching his 6-year-old grandson's T-ball and football teams. It's a chance, he said, to spend time he didn't make for his two sons because he was riding in ambulances or working a side gig to support his passion.
But his new job also is rewarding.
"I walk these streets around Lake Wylie," he said. "And everywhere I go -- whether it be (the) grocery store or the tire store or just to get something to eat -- there's always someone walking in and shaking my hand and telling me thank you. And that's a good feeling. But I tell you, when I walk these halls of the schools, and see this whole line of kids yelling, 'Hey Coach Ken!,' that's a good feeling, too."