IBEW 1245 member Eric Zimmerman just started working as a PG&E Gas Service Rep in July of 2018, and with just a few short months on the job, he has already learned to expect the unexpected.
Zimmerman had been applying for full-time jobs at PG&E for quite some time, and was absolutely thrilled when he secured a position as a GSR out of PG&E’s Concord yard. He had just left his previous job as an emergency medical technician and appreciated the opportunity to continue helping the public in a new way. But little did he know that his first few months on the job would be marked by not one, but two instances where he’d find himself utilizing those EMT skills in life-threatening situations.
The first such instance occurred at Diggers Diner in Concord. Zimmerman was working a Saturday overtime shift and had stopped in to the busy diner for his lunch break. As he was waiting for his food, a man came in to the diner, yelling that someone had just tried to run him over with a car. The staff at the diner immediately grabbed the phone to call 9-1-1, and Zimmerman quickly glanced outside to see if he could spot the alleged attacker but didn’t see anything. He then looked over the man for apparent injuries, and spotted nothing that seemed serious, save for a small amount of blood on the man’s hand.
Minutes later, a second man came into the diner, exclaiming that he had been stabbed by the first man, who was still inside the diner. The first man started to make his way towards the bathrooms at the back of the restaurant, but Zimmerman was sure to get a good look at him before getting up to assist the second man, who had fresh blood all over his leg.
“I could tell this was serious. So I went up and introduced myself, told him I’m EMT certified, and began to assess him for life-threatening injuries,” said Zimmerman. “He said that his side hurt, and he showed me what looked like about a four-inch laceration that penetrated down to the fatty tissue near his hip. He was bleeding pretty good.”
Zimmerman knew that he needed to control the bleeding, so without hesitation, he brought the man out to the curb and got the waitress to bring over some fresh napkins and a clean rag. The restaurant staff asked Zimmerman if he could explain the situation to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, so he told the injured man to use the napkins and rag to press down hard on the wound and hold the pressure while he was on the phone.
“After I handed the phone back to waitress, I was talking to the injured man, trying to keep him calm,” said Zimmerman. “He told me that he felt like he was going to pass out, and it was then that I noticed there was a smear of blood on his neck, so I had him wipe his neck and saw that he actually had a second stab wound to the neck – it looked like a small puncture, but that right there could definitely have changed things quickly!”
Zimmerman told the man to use the rag to put pressure on the neck wound, and within five minutes the police arrived and arrested the first man, and then the fire department came and took over first aid for the victim. Zimmerman reported the incident to his supervisor, and then returned to his lunch and continued on with his shift.
“When I told the guys in yard [about the incident], they said that a lot of people wouldn’t have stepped up like that. It’s not that they wouldn’t want to help, but they just wouldn’t have known what to do,” said Zimmerman, noting that there were about 40 other people in the diner at the time, but he was the only one who jumped up to offer first aid. “When I get into a situation like that, I don’t even think twice, I just start helping any way I can.”
Less than two months later, Zimmerman once again found himself tapping into his EMT background on the job. It was another Saturday shift, but this time, he was working in San Francisco, helping out their gas service department with some extra compliance work. He had just started his task and was knocking on his third door of the morning when he inadvertently came across a medical emergency inside a customer’s home.
As the customer opened the door, Zimmerman immediately got a sense that something wasn’t right, as the woman at the door seemed extremely upset and agitated. She said something unintelligible to Zimmerman, and then closed the door on him. He waited, hoping that she would send another family member to speak with him. And within a few moments, the door opened again, and this second family member said, “Is there something I can help you with? I’m on the phone with 9-1-1!”
Once again, Zimmerman’s training kicked in. He introduced himself, mentioned his background as an EMT, and asked what was going on. The customer told him that her elderly grandmother had suffered a serious fall, and Zimmerman asked if he could step inside and take a look.
“I walked in and right in the hall I could see her laying down – she was probably in her 80s or 90s. A family member propping her up,” Zimmerman recalled. “I asked what happened, and they said she had fallen through the bathroom door and hit her head on the wall. I did a quick assessment to her head and neck to check for injuries and lacerations. I didn’t feel anything, so I laid her down to make her comfortable.”
Zimmerman asked one family member to round up a list of all the medications she was taking, and her medical history, so it would be available when the emergency responders arrived. It was then that Zimmerman learned she was on blood thinners, which immediately raised a red flag in his mind. Another family member had already pulled out a blood pressure cuff, and when Zimmerman first checked her blood pressure, he observed that it was quite elevated.
“The family told me that she’d had a stroke within the last six months, so she couldn’t talk or tell me anything — but she looked really scared,” Zimmerman said. “So I asked her family to talk to her and help her calm down. The second time I took her blood pressure a few minutes later, it was lower, down from 150 to about 120, which is closer to normal range.”
The woman became visibly more relaxed under Zimmerman’s care, and when the fire department finally arrived and took over, Zimmerman explained to them what had happened, and they told Zimmerman that he had done an excellent job.
“I really do like helping – and she needed my help. It’s just in my nature, and I was in the right place at the right time,” said Zimmerman.
When Zimmerman took the job at PG&E, he was excited to begin a new career in service to his community. He never imagined he would find himself in two medical emergencies during his first four months on the job, but he feels like he was exactly where he was meant to be in those moments.
“It might sound cliché, but I’m so happy to be working here, and I really value the fact that we’re taught to always put safety first,” he said, acknowledging that he had also gone through the company’s mandatory CPR and First Aid refresher course right after he hired on. “Being able to help people is truly amazing… and being able to help in a PG&E uniform is even better.”
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director