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Public defibrillator makes a life-saving difference

Gerry Gorbey, center, holds the automatic external defibrillator that saved his life, along with the men who helped, (from left to right) Matt Austin, Rick Miller, Randy Karns, Dan Darling and Bryce Hood. - Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter
Gerry Gorbey, center, holds the automatic external defibrillator that saved his life, along with the men who helped, (from left to right) Matt Austin, Rick Miller, Randy Karns, Dan Darling and Bryce Hood.
— image credit: Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter

It was early in his shift on a normal April day, but by 7:30 a.m. Gerry Gorbey knew something was wrong.

He wasn’t feeling well that morning, with some dizziness and mild chest discomfort and then he started sweating profusely.

“I knew right then this was serious,” said Gorbey, who was at the time just shy of his 41st birthday.

Gorbey went to Dan Darling, his manager at the Cummins Northwest shop on Grady Way, and said he planned to go to the hospital. Darling agreed to drive him. Gorbey went to get his coat and laptop and was turning a corner when Randy Karns saw him.

“He looked horrible,” Karns said, though what happened next was unexpected.

“He collapsed in my arms,” Karns said.

Karns yelled for assistance and for someone to call 911 and then turned his attention back to Gorbey.

Darling got over to where Gorbey had collapsed and checked for a pulse. He found it, then it was gone.

By that time Rick Miller, a former paramedic, arrived to help; he also felt no pulse.

Darling and Miller moved Gorbey from the narrow hallway in which he collapsed into an outdoor lot and other workers were directed to get to the streets to direct the ambulance back to the shop when it arrived.

Darling grabbed a public access automated external defibrillator, or AED, from the shop’s wall as Miller performed CPR.

The pair put the defibrillator’s paddles on Gorbey and pressed the button, giving him a single shock and Gorbey’s heart started beating again. Darling  and Miller began CPR on Gorbey at the instruction of the AED, performing it until medics arrived at 7:34 a.m., according to a time line provided by Cummins.

“It’s amazing how fast they were here,” Karns said of the ambulance.

At that time, Gorbey was stabilized and taken to the hospital. Today, he is alive, well and back at work.

Gorbey’s life was in all likelihood saved by the access to the AED, something Cummins Northwest installed in their shop after another employee had a heart attack about six years ago. Along with the device, about 20 people at the building are trained on how to properly use it.

It all paid off in April.

“It’s a terrible situation, but the outcome was great,” Miller said.

“There’s people trained in every department,” Darling said. “We just happened to be the ones in the area when it happened.”

Manager Bryce Hood was credited with bringing the AEDs, which cost about $1,500 each, to the shop following the previous incident. Hood said it did not just make good sense for safety sake but also from a business standpoint.

“Our employees are our No. 1 asset,” he said.

“What’s the cost of a human life? $1,500?” agreed Darling, adding that it also raises morale in the building because it shows the company is willing to invest to make sure its employees go home to their families every night.

The team at Cummins this summer received a recognition and award from the Renton Fire Department during a City Council meeting. At the meeting, Fire Chief Mark Peterson cited the access to the AED and the training received by the staff as being key to saving Gorbey’s life.

“They didn’t have to think about it, they just did it,” Peterson said.

Because of its use at the Northwest shop, Hood said Cummins is considering purchasing AEDs for all of its shops around the world.

For his part, Gorbey said he was forever grateful to the men who saved his life, as well as the company for making sure there was a defibrillator at the shop, just in case. He said it is the first place he’s worked that had a public defibrillator.

“What they did for me, I don’t think anyone can fully comprehend until you’re in the situation,” he said. “If I was a rich man, they would all be rich men.”

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