Each year the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) trains hundreds of cooperative employees how to respond to health-related emergencies, specifically how to do cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), administer first aid, and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Each of these areas is crucial in offering a chance of survival to a person in need. We feel this is one of the best classes we offer, although in most cases the least used. We teach it hoping to give employees the encouragement needed to take charge in a situation where most people would freeze and be unable to do anything. We are not medical experts, but are compassionate people with a willingness to help someone in their time of need.
In any emergency situation, time is of the essence. Every second counts as we respond and get help on the way.
Recently one of our long-time electric cooperative managers, Larry Lovell from Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (SIEC), found himself in a situation where those seconds were of the utmost importance.
While sitting and talking after a meeting at Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC) on Oct. 18, Lovell suddenly felt a flush go down the left side of his body. Unbeknownst to him, he was having a heart attack and thanks to the fast thinking of three fellow cooperative managers he is still alive to tell us about it.
Lovell was sitting and talking to three fellow managers when Dustin Tripp, President/CEO of SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Inc., noticed something wasn’t right and asked Lovell if he felt all right. Lovell knew something was wrong and felt himself slump in his chair. Jim Riddle, Executive Vice President/Manager of Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association, responded and together they put Lovell on the floor. Riddle started chest compressions and Tripp handled the rescue breathing. Tripp knew they needed an AED and went to the hall to get one.
Leonard Hopkins, SIPC Environmental and Fuels Manager, retrieved the AED for Tripp and hooked Lovell up to it. It took two cycles of the AED to revive Lovell. The ambulance arrived and took him to the emergency room. Thankfully, Lovell lived. His cardiologist told him that only 20 percent of people that have ventricular fibrillation survive.
If not for the annual training/safety classes these managers would likely not have known how to respond. Lovell credits them and the easy access to an AED for saving his life. Ironically, the week before Lovell had asked Larry Lingle, the co-op’s Director of Operations and Maintenance to get a quote on putting an AED with every crew and possibly even in every vehicle. The day after his heart attack, I was already scheduled to do a CPR/AED training session at SIEC. Let’s just say everyone was very attentive during that training session. I’ve never seen a class so tuned in. When it hits close to home all those hours spent learning how to properly administer aid suddenly makes so much sense.
Lovell is extremely grateful to those who helped save his life and thinks there are two things he took away from the experience. He says, “You can never have too many AEDs around because you just don’t know where you are going to be when something like this happens. And, I also think we need to start this education in high school, or maybe even grade school. These kids need to get comfortable in knowing how to operate an AED.”
I am so glad that we are an organization that offers this life-saving training and that in many cases we have AED’s available. Unfortunately there are still many areas where we still need to have them. If there had not been an AED present would Larry still be with us? Probably not.
To the three men who responded so capably to this situation, “Very well done!” You did what I pray all of us are trained and capable of doing if that moment of truth is ever encountered.
Because electricity can cause electrocution and cardiac arrest, your co-op’s employees take safety and safety training very seriously. We hope you do too. The American Red Cross offers classes to anyone who wants to become certified. There are many different locations and times available. For more information, or to find a class in your area go to www.redcross.org/take-a-class.