PASCO -- A tag-team effort that saved the life of a production assistant at a Pasco food-processing plant July 8 won recognition for five Reser's Fine Food employees, five members of the Pasco Fire Department and a dispatcher.
Pete Peterson's co-workers were credited with saving his life and were given certificates of appreciation and heart-shaped pins. The emergency workers all received Peterson's personal heart-felt thanks.
The Reser's employees are credited by the fire department with saving Peterson's life during the first four to six minutes after the 63-year-old suffered a heart attack.
Dispatch Supervisor Mark Torrescano took the emergency call at 7:53 a.m. Sixteen seconds later, Lt. Craig Patterson, Capt. Pat Henrickson, Lt. Harry March, firefighter paramedic Ronnie Wenger and firefighter emergency medical technician Valorie Minton were heading for Reser's.
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But his co-workers -- who all had CPR training -- didn't stand by waiting.
As Wiskerchen called 911, production supervisor Julian Trinidad began chest compressions. Purchasing manager Lorna Mahony gave Peterson mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Shipping clerk Connie Garcia helped keep his neck supported so Peterson could breathe. Receptionist Erica Zapien cleared out onlookers to make way for the emergency crew.
During the informal ceremony Friday, Patterson gave each of them credit for saving Peterson's life. Henrickson handed each a pin and certificate.
"It's those four to six minutes that they worked on him that kept his brain oxygenated. Pete's alive because of what you did," Patterson said. "Those four to six minutes gave him a window of opportunity to live and mitigated the injury and damage to his heart and brain."
"Mark (the dispatcher) was great," Wiskerchen said. "We had to change some of the things we were doing because of what he said."
"He had me keep describing the sound of his breathing, his color. He was the one who said Pete was not breathing on his own," Wiskerchen said. "That's when Lorna began mouth-to-mouth."
"It's awesome you all got the CPR training and put it to use that day," Patterson said. Then, gesturing at the other emergency staff who had responded to the call, "we're all happy to be here today to meet you again. Generally we never hear the outcome of one of these calls."
Peterson said he doesn't remember anything after he collapsed. But he does remember his hands going numb while driving to work that morning about 3 a.m.
"I pulled over for a few minutes, then I felt better, so I went on to work," he said.
About 4:30 a.m., Peterson walked out to the mailbox in front of the plant. As he returned, walking down a slight incline, he said he went weak in the knees but made it to the building.
"He said he wasn't feeling well," Wiskerchen said. "We all tried to persuade him to get checked out at a clinic, but he wouldn't go."
Still feeling faint, he rested on the couch in the reception area. Someone gave him an aspirin.
"That was a good thing to do," Patterson said.
Mahony said she had a bad feeling, "I just knew he was having a heart attack, so I went to my desk and found CPR instructions on the internet."
She printed them out, read them through and gave the printout to Wiskerchen.
"About 7 a.m. Pete told me he was feeling better and he went back to his desk," Wiskerchen said.
Shortly afterward, Garcia asked Peterson for a calculator.
"He said he didn't have one, so I went to a friend's office to borrow one. That's when I heard all the yelling," Garcia said.
Peterson had collapsed.
By 8:27 a.m., he was at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland. By 9 a.m., his blocked artery was open and blood flow re-established to his heart.
"The total time from onset to having the artery open was 75 minutes. That's awesome," Patterson said. "The national goal is 120 minutes."
Peterson said, "Up to that day, I had no indications it was coming. I had no clue. Today, if my hands went numb, if I felt weak like that again, I'd make a U-turn on the freeway and head for the hospital."