During a medical emergency, every second matters. The quick response of four workers at the AEP storeroom on Westerville Road in northeast Columbus may have saved a man’s life.

Equipment Operator Todd Flesher and contract employees Jerrod Beightler and Christian Paugh were helping unload wooden spools of electrical wire from a flatbed truck. It was a team operation on the afternoon of January 14: Two men used forklifts to remove the heavy reels while the long-haul driver climbed up and down out of the truck, detaching equipment and removing chains. It was physical, labor-intensive work, but no different from the multiple supply deliveries that come into the building throughout the week. Everything seemed smooth.

Once the work wrapped up, things quickly turned not-so-smooth. Flesher came back outside to find the truck driver bent over near the driver’s side of his truck. He was vomiting. He was very pale, sweating and holding his head. Flesher asked the man if he was OK and the man immediately shook his head and said no.

Flesher didn’t hesitate. He called 911.

‘Something was really wrong’

Flesher is no stranger to emergency situations. He once worked at a medical center and saw plenty of people choking – older folks and babies alike – and he sometimes had to step in and help. Flesher also spent five years as an armed security guard performing overnight patrols, sometimes a harrowing job.

“I’ve seen just about everything. And I’ve seen plenty of people in distress,” Flesher said. “From my experience I knew right away it just wasn’t this man’s lunch not sitting well with him.”

Flesher finally got the driver to sit down in a chair (he kept trying to get out of it and didn’t seem to know what was going on). Flesher sprinted inside to get Beightler and Paugh to help, and texted Storeroom Supervisor Joe Schueler – who was on a conference call – to come outside ASAP.

With emergency personnel en route, Paugh ran to the street to direct the ambulance to the correct entrance and Beightler was stationed at the gate’s key card entry so paramedics could get inside our fences as quickly as possible. They also began clearing a path for fire trucks to pass through.

Medics arrived about five minutes later.

“I could tell by the way they were acting that something was really wrong. They started talking really fast,” Flesher said. “They left in a hurry, with red lights and sirens going. I knew something had to be wrong for them to leave like that.”

Something was wrong. The truck driver suffered a brain aneurysm, which is often fatal. Just a few hours later he underwent major surgery on his skull.

‘They didn’t delay’

Schueler spent the next several days talking with a dispatcher at the truck driver’s company. Schueler and the others wanted to know if the man was OK. (It was good news: He was alive, though he ended up remaining in the hospital for 11 days.) There were logistical issues to be resolved, too. For example, the man’s truck remained on AEP’s property and it needed to be looked after and returned.

The dispatcher said it plain: Our employees’ quick response probably saved the man’s life.

“It was a really unusual day. But it also had a great outcome,” Schueler said. “I give full credit to all three of these employees who were on the clock for us. They had the wherewithal to do all the right things to make sure the paramedics could get there as quick as possible. They didn’t question the man. They didn’t delay. They didn’t entertain any reason to not respond immediately. And that’s how they got that critical help started for him.”

As for Flesher, he laughs when asked how many times he’s called 911. He’s lost count. He called 911 so many times on security duty that the operators recognized his phone number. But he doesn’t regret a single one of them.

“In those kinds of situations people get worked up real fast. They’re hesitant to call because they’re afraid they’re going to get in trouble. But 911 operators are there to help you with that,” Flesher says. “People start over-questioning. And I’ll tell you, we could have saved all kinds of stuff if only they had called for help right away.”

On this day, Flesher, Schueler, Beightler and Paugh didn’t hesitate to call. They didn’t get worked up. And we at AEP – not to mention the truck driver and his family – are grateful for it.

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