Construction workers save heart attack victim (AUDIO)
Mike Kolbe remembers standing in the preconstruction meeting. He remembers a pain in his back. His shoulders started tingling. Then everything went black.
Brad King was in the room. The project superintendent for Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson Co. working on the Wisconsin Energy Institute in Madison saw Kolbe fall. King reached for the phone to call 911. Then everything turned into a blur.
“It was pretty intense,” King said. “I wasn’t really thinking; I was just trying to act.”
Kolbe, 64, was in the room Wednesday as a salesman for Ohio-based Environmental Growth Chambers, a subcontractor on the project hired to design and manufacture controlled environment rooms.
But when the heart attack hit, everyone forgot designs, specs and schedules. The only timeline that mattered was how long Kolbe would live and how long before the paramedics arrived.
While King called, others grabbed an automatic external defibrillator and began chest compressions.
“It was the first time I’ve been on a project where we had to use the AED, thankfully,” King said. “And hopefully it was the last time.”
King said about six people were in the room helping Kolbe, whom King had never met before, while about six others went outside to direct the ambulance.
On the Madison Fire Department’s 5-minute, 50-second 911 tape, King can be heard delivering updates that started out grim. Kolbe didn’t have a pulse, and he wasn’t breathing.
But Mortenson requires all of its employees complete CPR training every two years, said Rob Weise, a Mortenson construction executive.
“You can have a plan put in place,” he said, “but when it happens, it’s excellent the guys reacted the right way and it all fell into place. They did what they were trained to do.”
By the time paramedics entered the room, Kolbe had a pulse. He was breathing.
After that tingling in his shoulders, he said, the next thing he remembers is looking up at a crowd of faces.
On Friday, Kolbe was in good condition and recovering at University of Wisconsin Hospital. He lives in the Cleveland suburb of Chesterland, Ohio and said he rarely travels for the company.
“This is one of two projects I came to Madison to look at,” he said, “to take the normal field measurements before we release stuff for fabrication.”
But if he had to travel and had to have a heart attack, he said, he’s glad he did so in a room filled with people trained to help him.
“Better to do it here than in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “All I can say is I’m very grateful they were there and very well-trained.”
It’s not the type of training anyone wants to use, King said, but it’s better than the alternative.
“It feels good,” he said, “to know I helped save somebody’s life.”
Kolbe said his memory still is dotted with black spots from that afternoon, but he’s heard enough to know how lucky he is.
“I was told some guys took care of me, and I don’t even know their names,” Kolbe said. “From what I heard from the doctors at UW Hospital, I should be very glad they did, otherwise I might not be here talking about it.”