Blessed to Be Alive

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Few people can speak on the critical importance of knowing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and having an automated external defibrillator (AED) on-hand better than Janet Wood. She’ll tell you, she’s alive today because of CPR and an AED.

Janet, Communications Coordinator – Jefferson, says September 27, 2011, started out as a typical day on the job. She had just come back from a lunchtime workout at the on-campus gym and was settling down at her desk when staking technician Rob Edwards dropped by. She asked him a question, he turned around for a moment, and when he turned back to speak, “my head was on the desk,” Janet recalls. “He said I looked up, made a strange noise and started to fall out of my chair. He caught me before I fell and then he called 911.”

A rapid-fire sequence of events began to unfold.

Engineer Jimmy Roberts walked by, saw the situation, and went to inform others. Apparatus Technician and part-time EMT Eddy Williams heard the 911 call on his pager and made his way to Janet’s office. Jefferson Police Officer John Wood heard the 911 call and headed to the district office. District Manager Joe Hicks ran to retrieve the AED machine. Staking Technician Dan Varner went outside to flag down the ambulance.

“When Eddy found me, I had quit breathing and he started doing CPR,” Janet recalls. “John got there, and they both were doing CPR when Joe arrived with the AED.”

Eddy and John attached the AED to Janet, but the first shock didn’t work. The second did. After her heart began beating again, Janet was loaded onto an ambulance and rushed to Athens Regional Medical Center where she was placed in an induced coma for 36 hours. Janet was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiac arrhythmia, an irregularity in the heart’s electrical system, and underwent surgery to implant a defibrillator/pacemaker. She returned home after 10 days in the hospital.

“John told me afterwards that when he saw me on the floor, he thought I was dead because I was already gray,” Janet says.

She recalls there was stress in her life at the time; most notably, her military son had shipped out to Afghanistan the night before. She imagines the mental stress and physical exertion during her lunchtime workout combined with her unknown heart condition led to the event.

After six weeks of medical leave, Janet returned to work in November 2011 and within weeks, she accompanied her coworkers to the Georgia EMC Annual Meeting in Atlanta, where they received Lifesaving Awards.

Janet credits her life to the fact that her company had lifesaving equipment on-hand and her coworkers knew how to use it.

“I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time,” she says. “If I’d been anywhere but Jackson EMC, I would have been a goner.”
Jackson EMC has had AEDs on its campuses for more than 15 years with one on each floor of every JEMC building, plus one in each lobby and fitness center. Janet’s was the first emergency in which an AED was used.

“Jackson EMC’s emphasis on first aid, CPR and AED training went a long way in successfully ending a life-threatening situation with Janet,” says Steve Chambers, director of job training and safety. “The use of CPR until the arrival of the AED allowed a positive outcome to what could have been a tragic episode.”

“Rob, John, Eddy and Joe are my angels, they really are,” Janet concludes. “If they hadn’t jumped into action like they did, I wouldn’t be here. I can’t say enough about how thankful I am for my coworkers and all who helped that day. Every day I put my feet on the floor, I feel blessed to be alive.”

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