A routine service call turned into a rescue mission when a team of employees at an Illinois electric cooperative helped save a Vietnam veteran’s life.
Training, technology and quick thinking by employees at Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative in Mattoon, Illinois, came together April 3 to save a co-op member, who’d suffered a stroke and heart attack.
“It’s just incredible that all of the employees stopped what they were doing in different locations and saved this man’s life,” said Amy Borntrager, the co-op’s CEO and president. She said the line crews “totally and absolutely” took up the role as first responders that day.
Coles-Moultrie’s Mitchell Stanciu, Bob Schafer, Brock Cook and Jim Geldhert were on call at the Casey, Illinois, home of Bill Hadix, 72.
“I noticed an 11th Cavalry sticker on (Hadix’s) truck, so I thanked him for his service,” said Schafer. “He was telling me a little bit about his experience in the country and how he had taken over guardianship of his grandchildren.”
Hadix went inside the house and reappeared a few minutes later to check on the playing children.
“A dazed look was on his face,” said Schafer. “I figured he had taken some medicine that affected him strangely, or possibly had a stroke. But not knowing him from Adam, I went about my work and kept on eye on him.”
As the crews were loading up and getting ready to leave the worksite, Schafer saw Hadix stumble against his garage and fall, hitting his head against the building. He and Stanciu, both trained in first aid, rushed over. Hadix “was still conscious but not very responsive,” said Shafer.
Social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic meant that office employees were either working at home or on staggered shifts. Summar Smith, one of six member services representatives working at home that day, took Stanciu’s “Mayday” call over the radio and dialed 911.
What happened next was a textbook execution of the co-op’s emergency rescue procedures.
“When we get these calls, we typically think of a lineman or outside personnel making contact with an energized line, but this was a Mayday call for a member, not one of our guys,” said Borntrager.
David Welsh, Coles-Moultrie’s IT chief, was working remotely and in his truck when he heard the call. His vehicle’s GPS system located Stanciu’s truck, and Welsh gave coordinates to EMS personnel, who arrived within 15 minutes. Kelsey Hawkins was in the co-op office that day, recording events as they took place.
“Technology-wise, the individuals working at home still have their office phone and are hooked into the office computer and radio during the situation,” said Welsh. “That made it pretty helpful, even though they’re not physically by each other.”
Back at Hadix’s home, EMS personnel arrived and took Hadix to a local hospital. The lineworkers, who had retrieved his cellphone, stayed with the children and called their guardian, who arrived minutes later.
Hadix was airlifted to a hospital in Urbana, where surgeons removed a blood clot from his brain, his daughter, Amanda, wrote on the co-op’s Facebook site.
Calling her father’s rescuers “angels,” she wrote: “Things are still uncertain, but he’s awake and in a rehabilitative unit now. Our heartfelt thanks go to these men who didn’t pause in the face of a crisis … five minutes more, and they may not have saved him.”
Victoria. A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.