Claremore Daily Progress

July 24, 2011

A Life Saved: AXH employees act fast during coworker’s heart attack

Tom Fink
Staff Writer

CLAREMORE — It was just another day for Mike Alexander.

An ordinary day.

The Claremore man kissed his wife good-bye before heading into work early that morning, pulling into the AXH parking lot and taking his usual spot before busying himself with his daily labors as the lead man in the drills area.

But as it turned out, it would be a day Alexander — and those around him — would never forget.

“It was probably around 9:30 a.m. or so — I don’t think it was 10:00 yet,” recalled Shawn Porter, AXH employee. “I’d just turned around to pick up a tool and I saw Mike go down — he hit the ground and he hit it hard — I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I ran over to him and saw he was turning blue  — he looked bad — really bad.”

Bad was the word for it as it turned out that Alexander was suffering a major heart attack, right in front of Porter’s eyes and the eyes of his other coworkers.

“I yelled to one of the lead personnel over the header department, Jay (Katon) to call 911 and our first responders,” Porter said. “That got the ball rolling and it wasn’t long before I saw Jamie show up — that was kind of a relief, but by then, I could tell that Mike wasn’t breathing.”

The “Jamie” of which Porter is referring is Jamie Lewis, maintenance supervisor at AXH, but also a first responder and volunteer fireman for the Northwest Rogers County Fire Protection District.

AXH Air-Coolers General Manager James Lynch explains:

“Early on in our company’s history, we knew it was important to have people here who weren’t just quality employees trained to do a specific job, but to have those who were also trained and competent in things such as CPR and emergency response,”  Lynch said. “As such, we’ve always encouraged and provided our employees training in life-saving techniques and we’re blessed to not only have those who are, but to have two employees — Jamie Lewis and Jeremy Wells — who are themselves volunteer firemen and first-responders.”

Lewis picks up the story:

“I was in the maintenance shop, doing purchase orders when (employee) Terry (Wilson) called me on the radio and told me what was happening, telling me not to walk, but run to the scene,” Lewis said. “Once I got to Mike, I checked his ABC’s — airway, breathing, and circulation — and found him without a pulse and not to be breathing, so I immediately starting administering CPR, doing chest compressions — this was probably about two minutes after he went down.

“Even so, he wasn’t responding, so I called for Jeremy and he arrived on the scene about the same time Jay (Katon) brought the AED,” he said.

The AED — an automated external defibrillator — is a compact, portable electronic device which automatically diagnoses  potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia and is able to treat them through defibrillation (the application of electrical therapy to halt arrhythmia), allowing the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm.

“After the first shock (from the AED), Mike still wasn’t responding, so I resumed chest compressions, and starting doing some breaths (a first-responder technique commonly referred to as “mouth-to-mouth resuscitation”),” Lewis said. “After another minute, the AED was ready again, so we put it on Mike again and the second application ‘jump-started’ his heart — his color started coming back, I started getting a pulse, and he started breathing on his own — it saved his life.”

How did Lewis feel when he saw Alexander breathing on his own again?

“Words can’t describe it — it was awesome,” he said, nearly inarticulate at the recollection of the moment. “It was ...it was beyond awesome.”

It was after this that the Claremore Fire Department and Pafford EMS arrived on the scene and took over, taking Alexander to Claremore Regional Hospital where he was stabilized before later being transported to Southcrest Hospital in Tulsa.

From there, Alexander began his recovery — being visited by Lynch and several other AXH co-workers during his stay — before being released home to recuperate with the help of wife, Beth.

“I really don’t remember much about that morning, other than what I was told,” Alexander said. “I’ve worked at AXH for more than six years, starting not long after they opened (in Claremore) and have seen the company grow and go through a lot of changes in that time.

“One thing that has never changed, though, is their emphasis on safety and the well-being of their employees,” he continued. “I was told when I went down, the response of my fellow employees was immediate — not to take anything away from the paramedics or the hospitals or anyone else, they all saved my life, but I’m especially proud of my coworkers, Jamie (Lewis) in particular — without them, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Lynch reports that Alexander is recovering “very well” and is scheduled to return to modified work next week.

“This (experience) has only reinforced how important it is for people to be prepared, to be trained to step up and know how to help their fellow employees or anyone in need, really,” Lynch said. “We were very blessed — the right people were there at the right time with the right training and the right equipment —everyone came to Mike’s aid and did their part — it was a real team effort. Things could have gone so much differently, but they didn’t — our people knew how to deal with the situation and as a result, Mike’s still with us — I’d call that a miracle.”

AXH Air Coolers encompasses the entire spectrum of air-coolers from initial thermal design and application through mechanical engineering, design drafting, project management and after market support. With the largest single manufacturing facility in the industry of more than 200,00 square feet, AXH employees pride themselves on providing high quality products coupled with “on time” delivery.

Recently, AXH added a second plant in the Verdigris Industrial Park of 50,000 square feet.