Last month, there were 11 medics and Procter and Gamble employees who helped save the life of someone who was having a heart attack. A few of them, from left, included employees Marvin McDonald, Jeff Freeman, Stan Okon, Shawn Bullington and Jeff Mitchell. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — It’s one thing to perform CPR in a classroom. It’s another thing entirely to have to use those skills in real-life practice.
Last month, a group of medics and Procter & Gamble employees were involved in saving a contractor’s life when he had a heart attack during a morning meeting at the plant — making them recent recipients of the company’s Hero Award.
The man had the heart attack on April 16 at around 6:30 a.m., about five minutes into the meeting.
“I think they called it a sudden death incident,” said Stan Okon, one of the employees involved in the incident. “The team jumped into action. I pulled the alarm and called 911. I found people trained as first responders. We got the AED (automated external defibrillator) out and did chest compressions.”
When the contractor went down, he had no pulse and had turned white. After the AED shocked him, the group of 11 individuals managed to get him breathing again in the roughly 10 minutes it took the paramedics to get there.
“He was dead, and I knew we had to do something,” said Shawn Bullington, one of the other employees there. “He was talking when they wheeled him out.”
In order to prepare for such an event, employees at P&G are given the option of undergoing CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation training, involving a video and role playing.
“The whole thing went like it was supposed to,” Bullington said.
After that happened, officials at the company say the medic class P&G had immediately following ended up being the biggest they have had.
“We are really proud of these guys,” said Vince Falcione, external relations manager for the Albany plant. ” … It’s good to know we have folks who will volunteer.”
Even after doing the drills they do, it can be difficult to prepare for something like that to actually happen in the workplace.
“It was a real team effort,” Okon said. “I’ve seen it before in the military, but nothing close to that here.
“Thirty minutes earlier, he might not be alive. He was in the right place at the right time.”
Having been through the experience now, some members of that group now say they feel more confident in their abilities to help someone else.
“It changed my confidence outside of work,” said Jeff Freeman, one of the group. “It’s another thing to practice on a dummy … but now I know I can help a real person.”
At P&G, officials say, there are 20-30 AED units scattered through the premises with signs noting where the units are.
“(It helped me to learn to) pay more attention to where the equipment was at,” said Marvin McDonald, another member of the group. “That is probably the most important thing other than the people.”
Reflecting on the experience, Freeman took the opportunity to encourage something else in the interest of helping to save a life.
“I think we need to encourage folks to come out to get CPR training,” he said.
In the end, it made a big difference in the effort to save at least one life, even if the training doesn’t match up to the real thing.
“You can go through the training multiple times,” said Jeff Mitchell, one of the other employees. “What you can’t train for (is that real-life situation). It made a big difference.”
Officials at P&G say they have 146 trained medics on site, trained by the company’s nurses who work alongside each other to provide around-the-clock coverage for emergency responses.
“This is a voluntary program which employees take the time to help keep our site safe,” said Pam Snipes, owner of the medic program for P&G, said in an emailed statement. “It takes dedicated employees to participate/support this program during a critical event.”
An AED unit works by analyzing a person’s heart rhythm and, if necessary, delivering a shock. Information available from the American Red Cross shows that sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with more than 350,000 people expected to suffer from it this year. For each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced approximately 10 percent, prompting a push to set up more AED stations so that even someone with no medical background can administer an effective treatment for restoring a regular heart rhythm.