Life savers

Dresden staff commended for life saving actions

Photo by Ann Gill THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE team at Exelon’s Dresden Generating Station was recognized last week for saving a worker’s life who was suffering a heart attack. The Coal City Fire Protection district recognized nurses Sarah Esparza and Colleen Hansen who administered CPR and utilized an AED to shock the patients heart. By the time Coal City Fire Protection District arrived at the plant the individual was awake, alert and breathing. Recognized by Coal City Fire deputy chief Karl Wexelberg, Lt. Nick Doefler and Dresden site vice president Pat Boyle for their efforts in the call were [from left] Andrew Pavnica, Coal City Fire Protection District firefighter/paramedic; Boyle; Sarah Esparza, on-site nurse; Colleen Hansen, on-site nurse; Jessica Terrell, on-site first responder; Dresden staffers Andrea Slattery and Christopher Baker; Doerfler and Wexelberg.

Ann Gill

At 6:35 a.m. the tone went off alerting Coal City Fire Protection District of a medical call at Dresden Generating Station. Moments earlier a contractor working the refueling outage unexpectedly dropped to the floor in the station’s war room. The on-site medical team and first responders were doing all they could to help the man experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The team immediately performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator [AED] to shock his heart. Paramedics entered the war room less than 15 minutes after getting the call, and when they ran in they found the contractor awake, alert and breathing. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I only know of two times this has happened in my career that I have been actively involved in. Both times it was due to an AED and people being there quick to respond,” said Lt. Nick Doerfler, the fire protection district’s emergency medical services coordinator and public information officer. The patient was in the ambulance and on his way to the hospital within 30 minutes of the emergency call. Firefighter/paramedics Andrew Pavnica and David Bartholomew were on duty that morning and responded to the call. Pavnica later shared with Doerfler how many times the emergency doctor commended their lifesaving work. The paramedic responded to the physician, “we didn’t do anything but drive the guy to the hospital.” The heroes of that November day were Sarah Esparza and Colleen Hansen, both registered nurses and first responder Jessica Terrell. Doerfler and Karl Wexelberg, the department’s deputy chief, visited Dresden last week to recognize the team responsible with its Life Saver Award. “You guys did a fantastic job, you have so much to be proud of,” Doerfler told the team. Along with a certificate from the fire protection district, each member received a certificate and challenge coin presented by representatives of Zoll, the manufacturer of the AED. Pat Boyle, Dresden’s site vice president, joined in on the Jan. 6 awards ceremony. “You are the true heroes,” he said, sharing his thoughts from the day of the incident. On his way in that morning, Boyle received notice of an individual taken off site for a non-occupational illness. The communication, he said, isn’t that uncommon during an outage and he didn’t think much about it knowing his medical staff would handle the situation. Upon arrival he walked into the war room—a space where Exelon workers and contractors gather to discuss the work being performed inside the plant—and there was still some discussion going on about what had happened. “Then I got the story and honestly, I teared up. It was incredible to hear the story and what these folks did that morning. It’s heroic and it’s amazing, and I’m just so proud of you,” Boyle said. The man who experienced the cardiac incident has been working at the station as contractor for about 20 years. “A lot of us know him personally and we are happy they saved his life,” Boyle said. The patient was discharged from the hospital, and on Thanksgiving Day, two weeks after the incident, Esparza heard from the contractor. She said it was an emotional conversation between the two. During the ceremony, Doerfler also commended the work of Pavnica and Bartholomew who received the department’s Unit Citations for their efforts. He also noted the efforts of Grundy County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Corey who was working traffic duty outside of the plant that day and immediately responded to the call, and Dresden’s security team who secured a path through the gate for first responders. “I don’t know if you have ever pulled up and all the gates are open here at Dresden. It has only happened twice in my career, but both times it definitely was an asset to do the job that we needed to do for the benefit of everyone,” Doerfler said.