'Guardian Angels': Co-Workers Saved Heart Attack Victim
Michael Baker’s eyes teared up as he scanned the sheet of paper with barely legible words scrawled on it.
With a little imagination, the arching set of scribbles in the center of the paper could be recognized as, “How am I doing?”
Those words were the first written by Baker, 51, after he came out of a three-day, medically induced coma after suffering a heart attack at work on Jan. 23.
Now, on Valentine’s Day, Baker was reading them for the first time, standing in front of Pace International with his family members. Also there were his co-workers Dwight Dennis and Sandra Jacobs, who had administered CPR and used an automated external defibrillator to save Baker after his heart attack.
“They saved my life,” Baker said. “They are my guardian angels.”
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life- threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia, and is able to treat them by using an electrical shock to stimulate the heart back to a normal rhythm.
Now Baker, who has a pacemaker, is advocating that other local businesses get an AED and train their employees to use the device.
“It works,” Baker said. “I’m proof it can save you.”
For their part, Jacobs and Dennis modestly deflected the credit for their actions.
“It was a team effort. Everybody who took part played a key role in a successful outcome,” said Dennis, the production manager for the company, which makes soldering systems for computer parts.
“It is really amazing to see Mike now,” Dennis said. “It is a real testament to the technology, staff and doctors at the hospital, the paramedics and everyone involved. It really makes you feel good.”
Baker had arrived at work that Monday feeling discomfort in his chest, which had made it hard for him to sleep the evening before.
“I rolled around a lot on Sunday night. I couldn’t get comfortable,” he said. “I just didn’t feel right.”
The next morning he was still not feeling well. Co-workers advised him to go to the hospital, but Baker declined.
“I went outside to my truck to get an aspirin,” he said.
Fast-forward to 1 p.m. Baker was going to get some parts for the project he was working on when, he says, he “fell out.”
Then his “guardian angels” took over.
Co-workers rushed to notify Dennis, who rushed to the scene. He evaluated Baker’s condition and sent someone to call 9-1-1.
“There was no breathing, no pulse,” Dennis said. “I got the AED and hooked it up.”
By then other co-workers, including Jacobs, a manufacturing supervisor, were on scene. She and Dennis started CPR on Baker while waiting for emergency responders arrived.
“When you have the training, you don’t know if you’ll remember what you were taught, but at that moment it all just fell into place,” Jacobs said.
Following the instructions on the AED, Dennis and Jacobs shocked Baker two times before emergency responders arrived and took over his care. Before he reached the hospital, Baker was shocked three more times.
“The machine is made so you can grab it off the wall, listen to it and do what it says,” said Bob McGlohon, AED facilitator for sales with the American Red Cross.
“But the training will remove doubts you may have,” he added. “It reduces that hesitancy that might occur in a situation where every second counts.”
It was more than 24 hours before Baker’s family notified the plant that he had survived his ordeal. Those were difficult hours for everyone at Pace International.
“We have such a small plant, we are really like a family,” Jacobs said. “When something like this happens, it tears at your heart.”
“It was really hard to focus on the job,” Dennis said.
Baker was hospitalized for eight days, including three in the medically induced coma. Now, a month after the incident, Baker has returned to work — but for a different company. He had given his two weeks’ notice at Pace prior to his heart attack.
Baker and his family know he was fortunate.
“God had all the people in the right place to save him,” said his mother, Sybil Tyndall.
For his part, Baker is convinced that he would not be here today if not for the AED and the quick actions of Dennis, Jacobs and all others who helped him.
He recalled an incident 10 years ago, when he was working in Rocky Mount, when a co-worker had a heart attack on the job and died.
“We were helpless,” he said. “We didn’t have an AED, and all we could do was CPR. It wasn’t enough.”
According to McGlohon, a person who has sudden cardiac arrest and receives only CPR has a 7 percent chance of survival if emergency responders arrive in an average time of eight minutes. But that can increase to nearly 80 percent if the person has a shockable heart rhythm and an AED is used within four minutes of the attack.
Moore County Emergency Manager Scot Brooks said there are 336 AEDs at businesses, schools, police and fire stations and other locations throughout the county.
Many of those devices have been made possible through Heart Safe Moore County, a countywide program that promotes access to AEDs.
Baker is not the only Moore County resident who has been saved through the use of an AED. In 2006, Roger Watson was nearing the end of a workout at FirstHealth’s Center for Health and Fitness in Pinehurst when he grew dizzy and passed out.
Center employees revived him using CPR and an AED.
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing almost 400,000 people per year, according to HeartSafe Moore County.
Baker hopes his story will reach far and wide, and that companies will equip workplaces with life-saving AEDs.
Pace International has 37 employees at its Southern Pines plant. Three employees are trained in CPR and using the AED. A fourth employee, who splits time between the Southern Pines and Baltimore offices, is also trained.
“This has given us the confidence to know that if it ever happens again, we know we can do it,” Jacobs said.
She, like Baker, is hopeful other companies will follow their lead.
“My hope is this will reach other businesses and they will recognize how important it is to have AEDs and have employees who are property trained to use them,” she said
To learn more about HeartSafe Moore County, call (910) 947-6500, or visit heartsafemoore. org.
Contact Tom Embrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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