Saved by CPR and Quick Thinking 

Saved by CPR and Quick Thinking 

News from International Training Institute, Indianapolis.
Edited by Nick Dmitrovich.

Let this be a lesson for anyone questioning the importance of CPR instruction as part of their training. CPR saves lives and it’s a critical part of any workforce safety program. Earlier this year in fact, the technique was used to save the life of an Indiana sheet metal apprentice during a totally unforeseen emergency.

John and Destiny Walker and their two children.

When first-year apprentice John Walker returned to Sheet Metal Workers Local 20’s Indianapolis training center after lunch one afternoon, he didn’t feel well. His legs were shaking, he was lethargic, and his arm was tingling. Walker tried to sit in the back of class and catch some shut-eye before class began, but he couldn’t get comfortable.

Despite repeated questions from his classmate, he insisted he was fine. Until he wasn’t. The 29-year-old fell to the ground and stopped breathing.

Instructors Sean Webb and Ricky Coleman had finished CPR and first aid training with the apprenticeship class the week prior. As Webb began chest compressions on Walker, apprentices cleared the room, called for emergency services, and ran to get other instructors that jumped in to help. Instructor Joe Potesta monitored Walker’s pulse while Coleman fetched the automated external defibrillator (AED).

“The reason why everybody did what they were supposed to do was because Sean was in complete control,” said Jason Benson, Local 20 training coordinator. “I stood back and watched these guys work. It was pretty impressive. I’m very proud of them.”

Webb explained that CPR and first aid was taught several times at Local 20 during the first few months of 2021. That fresh training is what enabled such a successful response.

Pictured are (l to r): Ricky Coleman, Sean Webb, and Joe Potesta, instructors at Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 that saved John Walker’s life with CPR.

“I woke up to my instructor giving me chest compressions, and I took a huge gasp of air. I guess I stopped breathing four times. It was wild,” Walker said. “If it wasn’t for those guys, or if I had been on a roof working, I can’t imagine how that would have gone down. I was definitely in good hands. To this day, I can’t thank Sean enough for how immediate he was able to get everything going. I owe that guy my life.”

The husband and father of two young children had been an athlete all his life, even spending time as a cage fighter. A previous heart condition had been fixed, so the episode and its severity were a surprise.

“What they did really shows the brotherhood and sisterhood of the union. They saw one of their members down, and they jumped in,” said Dale Clark, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specialist for the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal industry. “They didn’t panic.”

Walker said he doesn’t mind being the example used in future classes to explain why CPR is important. The more people at the local who know his story, the more lives it will save.

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