PG&E Electric Line Crew Foreman Danny Perez and Lineman Aaron Minnick have a combined 51 years on the job. In all those years, neither one has ever had to use their CPR/First Aid training in an emergency before.
But that changed on Tuesday, April 3. Perez and Minnick, along with Apprentice Lineman Ben Hubbell, were on their way to their next work assignment when they decided to stop off for lunch at a market in Pioneer, CA. Perez had just finished paying for his sandwich and was walking out of the store when he noticed the gentleman in front of him had let go of his shopping cart. The man stumbled back, and then fell to the pavement.
“I saw him fall, and the back of his head hit the ground really hard. I turned around and told the clerk at the store to call 9-1-1 and tell them we have a man down,”Perez recalled. “Then I proceeded to go up to the man to see if I could get response. There was some groaning and movement of the mouth, his head went side-to-side a little bit, but then his eyes started to roll back, he turned red and next thing I knew, he quit moving.”
As the man became unresponsive, Perez noticed that the color was draining from the man’s skin. He quickly assessed the man’s condition, looking for a pulse, while the man’s mother called his name, trying to get him to respond. Unable to find a pulse or detect any breathing, Perez’s CPR training kicked in, and he immediately began doing chest compressions in the driveway right in front of the store.
About a minute later, Minnick walked out of the store and saw Perez administering CPR on the ground. Minnick promptly came to assist, trying to elicit some sort of verbal or physical response from the man. When that didn’t work, Minnick asked Perez if he should begin rescue breathing.
“I told [Minnick] to look for something he could use as a barrier. The gentleman had some plastic bags from the grocery store in his cart, so Aaron ripped off a piece of the bag and used that as a barrier,” said Perez. “I stopped giving compressions so Aaron could give breaths. His mother was still trying to get his attention, but by that time, the man had turned purple.”
Perez and Minnick continued to work together to give CPR to the man, alternating between compressions and breaths, as they were taught in their mandatory employer-provided CPR course. During the third round of aid, the man started to become responsive, gripping Minnick’s hand aggressively and trying to push him away.
“He was a little incoherent, asking us where he was and what happened. He even asked why he was there,” Perez recalled. “At that time, he was saying, ‘Let me up, I can’t breathe!’ and he got a little combative with us. A person who had been watching brought over a blanket to raise his head up in order to facilitate breathing.”
The man subsequently lost consciousness a second time, but then came back around and was again a bit physically aggressive with Minnick and Perez, which they knew to be a common response for someone in his state. By that time, Apprentice Ben Hubbell had come out of the store, and assisted Perez and Minnick in rolling the man on to his side in a recovery position. Perez was focused on keeping the man responsive, but in the back of his mind, he was thinking about the AED in his truck, and was prepared to send Hubbell to retrieve it, should the need should arise.
Fortunately, the man remained conscious this time, and they never needed to use the AED. A few minutes later, the ambulance arrived, and by then, the man had begun to remember where he was and why he was there, which Perez perceived as a good sign, especially considering how hard the man had hit his head when he fell to the ground. Perez told the paramedics what had happened, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the EMTs took over.
“Our adrenaline was so pumped up after that. We left the scene and had to take some time to calm our nerves,” Perez said. “We still had our lunches, but I couldn’t even eat right away, I just needed some time to process everything.”
Perez feels fortunate that he was there to assist the man during those critical minutes. If he and his crew hadn’t been there, there’s no telling how the situation may have turned out.
“We happened to be in the right place at the right time, and our response just came automatically… we started doing [CPR] exactly as we were trained to do,” Perez said, noting that he had taken his last CPR refresher course in the summer of 2017, but it all instinctively came right back to him in that moment. “The reward we got was to see him recover. I feel pretty good about the whole thing, and lucky that it all turned out with a good ending.”
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director