If you absolutely have to have a heart attack in the mid-valley, and can't make the arrangements to have it occur in, say, the heart and vascular unit at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, you could do a lot worse than at Burcham's Metals in Albany.
That's the lesson a 52-year-old Albany man, Mike Murphy, learned in January when he collapsed in the buying yard of the scrap-metal business.
What happened after that was recounted last week in a riveting story by the Democrat-Herald's Jennifer Moody. (Gazette-Times readers didn't get a chance to see that story, but the online version of this editorial includes a link to it; the story is well worth your time.)
Murphy has been on medication for several years to help cope with atrial fibrillation. This is the first time, however, that his heart simply stopped.
When he collapsed just after 9 a.m. on Jan. 22, though, he immediately drew the attention of workers at Burcham's. A little bit of luck was involved: One of the workers, Mike Davis, was working a forklift at the time and was in exactly the right place to see Murphy topple.
But a lot more than luck came into play after that. As it turns out, Jay Burcham, the owner of the business, is a stickler for making sure that all his employees are trained in emergency procedures. And this is real training, not the kind of PowerPoint pablum that passes for training at too many businesses these days: All of Burcham's employees are trained, for example, in CPR and renew that training every two years. All of them know their jobs in case of emergency.
"We made that decision many years ago," Burcham said. "You just stay on top of it."
And "staying on top of it" is a good summary of what happened next at Burcham's on the morning of Jan. 22.
Davis and Mitch Johnston, who also was working nearby, raced to Murphy's aid and were by his side in seconds.
Murphy's eyes were open and glazed and he wasn't breathing. Johnston checked for a pulse in his neck and couldn't find one, so he radioed the office to call 911.
Johnston started right in on CPR.
In the office, Angela Miller was making sure emergency responders were on their way. Then she left a message for Burcham, who was at a meeting and had silenced his phone, and called Murphy's company to make sure his managers and family members were in the loop.
In the meantime, other Burcham's employees sprang into action. Erik Roos went out to Pacific Boulevard to direct the Fire Department as personnel arrived. Davis and Mark Wagner got on forklifts to clear the area so paramedics would have easy access. Jay Poppleton ran for the automated external defibrillator.
Johnston later admitted worrying that he wasn't doing a good enough job with his chest compressions, but not to worry: When paramedics arrived, they asked Johnston to resume his work so that they had time to set up their own defibrillator.
It took two shocks to restart Murphy's heart, and another on the way to the hospital. He spent some time in the emergency room at Samaritan Albany General Hospital, then was transferred to cardiac care at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, where he remained for the next five days. The crew from Burcham's visited him there.
"All these people are just amazing," Murphy said. "My angels saved me."
Angels who were well-trained in emergency procedures, because a manager thought that was important.
If other companies are interested in building the same kind of safety culture that's in place at Burcham's, the employees there will be happy to share their stories.
And if you need an endorsement that the safety training at Burcham's is paying off, Mike Murphy will be more than happy to oblige. (mm)