Theirs had been a camaraderie based on years of working together, shared personal experiences and mutual respect and admiration.
But it’s safe to say that the bond between Guardian Industries glass packer Glenn Caldwell and his colleagues at the plant in Jefferson Hills, Pa., runs considerably deeper following the memorable May 8 night in which he suffered a massive heart attack at work and lived to tell about it only because of those very same friends.
“I never thought in a thousand years that the same guys I worked with would be the same guys who saved my life,” Caldwell says.
A 13-year employee, Caldwell, 56, was working the night shift when he first complained to his supervisor about what he believed to be bad indigestion. He was busy on the line about 30 minutes later when he suddenly collapsed to the ground, losing consciousness almost immediately as he went into cardiac arrest.
“Glenn’s down!” somebody yelled.
That was all Caldwell’s colleagues needed to hear. Moving quickly and decisively as they had been trained during a company-sponsored safety program, members of the Guardian specially-trained emergency response team jumped into action, hauling Caldwell away from the line before removing his apron and commencing CPR.
Several of his other friends hurried to grab the nearby defibrillator, while others rushed to a phone to call for help.
Caldwell, who had no previous heart issues, remained unconscious when his co-workers took the defibrillator and shocked him twice in a desperate, but ultimately successful attempt to jump-start his heart.
“They brought me back,” says Caldwell, the divorced father of a 12-year-old girl, “and kept working with me until they got a response.”
EMTs from the nearby Jefferson Regional Medical Center were quick to arrive on the scene, getting there only six minutes after Caldwell collapsed. They immediately assumed control of his care, shocking him twice more with the defibrillator before rushing him to the hospital. It was there that Caldwell’s condition was determined to be so grave that doctors induced him into a coma so as to give him a better chance at recovery. Caldwell remained in that state for five days before awaking neurologically intact.
“The doctors explained to me that I was very lucky,” he says.
Caldwell’s doctors say he owes his life to the life-saving measures taken by his friends during those critical initial six minutes before the arrival of the EMTs.
“Had my co-workers not known what to do,” he says, “I never would have made it.”
That was just the point when the Jefferson Hills plant began its volunteer emergency training program in 1987. Local EMTs annually teach the two days of emergency medical training with the hopes of someday saving lives. The idea was to make sure that at least some Guardian employees on each shift knew what to do in case of emergency.
Caldwell’s story was proof enough that every second counts.
Caldwell soon felt well enough to be sent home from the hospital to continue his convalescence and later enjoyed an emotional reunion with his friends and co-workers. He officially returned to work earlier this month.
He remains eternally thankful for his colleagues, as well as to Guardian Industries for having such a program at the plant.
“I’m very grateful for the company for instituting the program, taking the time and spending the money to get everybody trained,” Caldwell says.