by Rebecca Band
It started off as an ordinary work day for the PG&E General Construction line crew out of the North Bay. Little did they know that their CPR training was about to pay off in a big way for one terrified family and their tiny baby.
IBEW 1245 members Facundo Ronquillo, Kjol Turner, Art Mayfield, Noah Studebaker and Mark Hockenberger, along with IFPTE-ESC member Kurt Kidwell and their supervisor, Dustin James, were on their way to a job in Fort Bragg when they decided to stop off for a meal break at Mary’s Pizza Shack in Cloverdale. The men were waiting for their order to arrive when they noticed something was going on at nearby table, where a mother and grandmother were seated with their nine-month-old infant.
Miscellaneous Equipment Operator Art Mayfield had been outside on a work-related phone call, but when he stepped back inside the restaurant, he looked over at the family and immediately knew something was wrong. “It struck me that something was amiss when I saw the way the grandma was handling that baby. [The crew and I] all looked at each other and realized the baby wasn’t breathing. Something was lodged in the windpipe.”
Mayfield said it was clear that the mother and grandmother were panicking and didn’t know what to do. “Even the waitress had no clue what was happening,” Mayfield said. “She just stepped back.”
But the GC crew members, who are all trained in CPR and emergency preparedness, knew exactly what to do, and immediately leapt into action.
Kurt Kidwell was the closest and reached the baby first. He took the baby into his arms and held her close to his face to check for air flow, but felt no breath coming from her.
“She wasn’t breathing … and I knew that we needed to get an ambulance, so I yelled ‘Call 9-1-1!’” said Mayfield. But when Mayfield saw Kjol Turner take out his cell phone, he and Dustin James quickly stopped him.
“We know from experience that it takes longer to get through to 9-1-1 on a cell. So we got the restaurateur to dial 9-1-1 on the landline,” Mayfield recalls.
While Turner and the restaurant manager called for help, Kidwell began to perform infant CPR. Supervisor Dustin James reports that Kidwell gently flipped the baby onto her stomach and balanced her on his arm and knee, while the baby’s tearful mother knelt in front of him. With his other hand, he began to apply pressure to the baby’s back.
“Kurt was giving the baby a little Heimlich [maneuver], and pretty soon the baby started coughing up what was lodged in there!” Mayfield recalls. “Then I went outside with Mark to direct the Fire Department. The rest of the guys were still inside talking to family, telling them everything would be OK.”
And indeed, thanks to the crew’s quick thinking and emergency preparedness training, the baby was just fine. “By the time the Fire Department arrived, the baby was good, she was actually drinking some milk,” said Mayfield.
“Once the Firemen arrived and started giving advice to the mother, I realized what really just happened and how awesome our team reacted,” reports Supervisor Dustin James. “It was truly amazing.”
“We go to CPR training every year, and we’re always told that we’ll use it more away from work than at work,” said Mayfield. “This is what we do. This is what we’re trained to do. We all reacted at the same time. We each took a different responsibility and did certain things. Kurt did the actual CPR, but we worked together and did everything we’re supposed to do.”
Word of the crew’s heroic act quickly spread throughout the company. “Words cannot express the pride I have in knowing I work amongst great men such as yourselves,” John Ghigliazza, Sonoma Division Senior Manager, wrote in a thank-you email to the crew members. “I hope to one day be able to shake your hand and thank you in person. You all made the ultimate difference yesterday.”
“The culture of safety that IBEW & PG&E have worked to develop means that every lineman has the ability to save a life, whether it’s the life of a co-worker who is injured on the job, or the life of a child they’ve never met who winds up choking in a restaurant,” said IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell. “These heroes reacted effectively and without hesitation. Today we celebrate them and the young life that they helped save. We couldn’t be more proud.”