Pennsylvania Co-op Staff, Members Honored for Saving Board Treasurer’s Life

Adams Electric Cooperative employees and members are pictured with Board Treasurer Tom Knaub (third from left) after they were honored for coming to his aid in March when he suffered a heart attack. (Photo By: Sarah Frank/Adams EC)

If it weren’t for the quick actions of Adams Electric Cooperative employees and members, co-op board treasurer Tom Knaub likely wouldn’t be alive today.

Knaub, 63, and his wife, Jane, were at a district member meeting at the Wyndham Gettysburg Hotel in March when he collapsed during the Q&A portion. Kevin Dehoff, dispatch coordinator for the Gettysburg-based co-op, was one of about 600 people at the meeting.

“I was completely on the other side of the room, and I heard a bunch of dishes rattle and people hollering for an EMT,” said Dehoff, who has also been an Adams County volunteer firefighter for the last 40 years. “It was pretty crowded, and I got there as fast as I could. [Knaub] was lying on the floor,” unconscious.

Co-op members Catherine Wallen and Jennifer Stefanik, who had both been sitting near Knaub, were taking turns administering CPR but soon called out for an AED device. Sarah Frank, the co-op’s communications and community relations coordinator, found one in the hotel, and her colleague Kami Noel called 911. Meanwhile, co-op member Melissa Weishaar took Knaub’s wife off to the side to comfort her.

Knaub regained consciousness after Dehoff administered one AED shock and Wallen performed another round of CPR. He responded when they asked him his name.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I’ve never had anybody wake back up and talk to me,” said Dehoff. “Thank God, he started talking to us.”

Dehoff estimated they worked on Knaub for about three minutes before paramedics arrived and transported him to Gettysburg Hospital, where doctors discovered he had suffered a “widowmaker” heart attack, a 100% blockage of the heart’s largest artery. Board President Glenn Bange and his wife, Doris, escorted Knaub’s wife to the hospital and stayed overnight until other family members arrived.

Knaub was released after a few days in the hospital and is now undergoing physical therapy but back to his regular routine.

“I was up for board re-election [earlier this year] and in my video, I said, ‘Adams Electric is more than poles and wires. It’s about human connections,’” Knaub said. “I didn’t realize how soon it would hit home for me and all these people would come out of the woodwork to help save my life. We had the prayers and support from the whole community and excellent care from Dr. Habib and his staff. All my stars aligned that day.”

Those who came to Knaub’s aid are being recognized for quick actions:

  • An American Heart Association Heartsaver Hero Award went to Dehoff, Stefanik, Weishaar and 911 Dispatcher Tracey Nease on May 22.
  • Citations from two state representatives went to Wallen, a legislative staffer and co-op member, as well as Dehoff, Stefanik and Weishaar during the co-op’s annual meeting May 18.
  • A safety award from the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association will go to Dehoff and Frank.

News travels fast in a small town like Gettysburg, and Knaub and others say the incident has raised awareness about CPR and AED training.

Fellow board members “were telling me they were stunned. They didn’t know what to do,” Knaub said. “That’s why we are all getting CPR- and AED-certified now.”

Adams EC requires annual CPR recertifications for employees and AED devices on all bucket trucks. Since the incident, the co-op has placed defibrillators in more rooms in buildings in its three districts.

Other local businesses are getting the message that quick action can save lives, Noel said. “We’ve heard they’re starting to train their employees after reading or hearing about the event.”

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.