The heart of smartness: Prepared Merit Medical employees save colleague’s life, honored by SoJo City Council
Dec 10, 2019 02:44PM
By Jennifer J Johnson
Survivor Jack Rake is flanked by his life-saving colleagues—Teresa Salazar, Debra Pressley and Andrew Williamson. (Merit Medical)
By Jennifer J. Johnson
It was 5:05 a.m.
The South Jordan company that manufactures products that save 15,000 to 20,000 lives around the world each day had a crisis — right on one of its manufacturing lines.
Jack Rake was assembling parts in a kit—part of his job as a “material handler” at medical-device manufacturer Merit Medical.
Suddenly, his eyes closed. He fell backwards.
He would later describe the experience as “someone switching me off.”
The sound of his head smacking a counter “was a sound I have never heard,” recalls co-worker Teresa Salazar.
Salazar said she perceived the unique, sickening sound above the whirr and grind of the machinery and even above the Ozzy Osbourne she intentionally had blasting into one ear, to drown out the workplace noise and to keep her motivated on her work.
With the heavy-metal still wailing in her ear as she turned to look, she saw Rake convulsing on the ground.
‘Jack, Jack, Jack!’
On her knees, by her colleague’s side, she kept calling his name. She turned him slightly and saw blood on the ground.
“Jack fell!” yelled fellow line worker Debra Pressley. Pressley ran to get the first-aid kit, then threw Salazar some “lint-frees”—high-end, lint-free towels used on the manufacturing and assembly floor.
“Code blue” was invoked.
Someone dialed 911.
Salazar, familiar with medical crisis from caring for her grandmother, was quickly joined by colleague Andrew Williamson.
Williamson, a former emergency medical technician, checked Rake’s pulse and airway, then initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
He’s not breathing!’
Williamson’s efforts notwithstanding, Rake was in need of even more help.
He needed a defibrillator.
Merit, a global, publicly traded medical-device company founded and still-headquartered in Utah, is a company well aware that most sudden cardiac deaths occur outside of the hospital. The company prizes itself with understanding market needs in health care throughout the world,
Lucky for Rake, the company also prizes and understands its employee needs for safety.
The company had previously installed eight automated external defibrillators onsite at its South Jordan campus.
Merit had conducted training sessions for each of its work shifts in the proper use of the defibrillator—as well as the nuances of first-aid and CPR—to ensure that employees were prepared to help their teammates in a situation such as this.
Defibrillators are devices that restore a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or shock to the heart. They are used to prevent or correct an arrhythmia, a heartbeat that is uneven or that is too slow or too fast. Defibrillators can also restore the heart's beating if the heart suddenly stops.
Both circumstances now compromised Rake.
The nearby defibrillator or AED was called into action by Rake’s three colleague-saviors.
Only a minute had passed since Salazar heard the head thump over Ozzy Osbourne’s classic lyrics—“mental wounds not healing.”
Thanks to the quick thinking and procedures used on his behalf by his fateful “dream team” of rescuer-colleagues, Rake is lucky to be alive.
Doctors from the hospital would late indicate that Rake had less than 10 minutes to live without the occurrence of a carefully administered, technically bolstered sequence of events.
A normal heart operates with 55% efficiency. Doctors told Rake his heart had been operating at only 15% efficiency. His undetected, untreated cardiomyopathy had weakened his heart to the point of failure.
He was told by doctors that the failure’s occurring while he was at work, around trained colleagues equipped with defibrillator was the perfect storm—for continued life.
“Ninety percent of people don’t survive” such a failure, he shares, noting that there are 380,000 such failures a year around the world.
Today — understanding his need for more physical activity and healthfulness to strengthen his hear—Rake walks to work much more frequently and has taken up the joy of hiking. He says he now pays attention to restaurants and other public places offering AED units as part of public safety.
Aug. 6, 2019 – ‘evermore’ commemoration of Merit Medical team lifesaving actions
The South Jordan City Council, upon learning of the Merit Medical’s trinity of lifesaving worker-colleagues, honored the three with a proclamation.
“Because of their brave work, South Jordan City has proclaimed Aug. 6 for evermore as Andrew Williamson, Debra Pressley and Teresa Salazar Day.”
The employees were further commended by the American Heart Association and received firefighter recognition in the form of emblematic pins.
“The beauty of it?” said Cindy Landrum, supervisor of Rake and his colleagues and director of manufacturing for Merit. “These three took action.”
“My heart is very, very full,” said a humble Rake, now speaking literally and figuratively. “I’m so thankful that this company and this management team had the foresight to do CPR and external defibrillator training.”
Rake himself indicates having been trained in both procedures, ready to help others in the future.
The lifesaving colleagues have gone through their own processes, dealing with the traumatic experience that ended so well.
“Honestly, it has taken me awhile to accept that I helped save Jack’s life,” says Salazar. “It’s taken me a while to be proud of what I did.”
“We’re his family,” said Pressley.
Rake bows his head in gratitude. “Amazing.”