I still have vivid memories of the summer day, several years ago, when I stared death right in the face — and felt helpless to do anything about it.

I was visiting my brother’s house when a teenage neighbor from across the street came running over, screaming that his father was suffering a heart attack and that he needed our help. Instinct took over, and I bolted across the street and into the first floor family room of the home. Lying on his side on the floor was the boy’s father, devoid of vital signs.

I immediately rolled him on his back and began performing CPR, trying to recall everything I had learned from my Red Cross training as a teenage lifeguard. I cleared a passage, performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and then switched to some chest compressions.

Within a few minutes, the EMS had arrived and I was relieved to relinquish my job to the professionals. I left the home and waited on my brother’s front lawn for any further word. Apparently, the EMS unit temporarily revived the father, but he died later that day.

I felt disappointment and helplessness from not being able to save a life. He was a perfect stranger but it didn’t matter — the experience impacted me deeply.

So it was no surprise that a letter recently sent to The News grabbed my attention right away.

AED to the Rescue

Lee Curtes, the owner of Auer Steel & Heating Supply Co. in Milwaukee, WI, told us his story about a heart attack he had suffered while on a mountaintop in Vail, CO, in January 2000. He was on a ski vacation.

He said that if it weren’t for the availability of an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) to the Ski Patrol, he would not be alive today.

I’ll have the complete story in an upcoming issue of The News, but I wanted to devote this column to a thought that Curtes put into my head.

Knowing the value of AEDs in the workplace, Curtes immediately purchased two units, one for his location in Milwaukee and the other for his Twin Cities, MN, branch. He also bought a third to keep with himself for his various trips, including one to Alaska in early July.

Curtes also convinced Carrier president John Ayers of the importance of having AEDs.

Ayers responded by having the units installed at Carrier’s headquarters in Syracuse, NY. Curtes also convinced some local Bryant dealers to donate money to have AEDs installed in Washington County, WI, police cars.

Saving Lives

These actions only scratch the surface. Curtes believes that the hvacr trade can seize this vital need to push themselves into the forefront of positive public relations.

As he stated, our trade is often looked upon as the guys in “black hats,” because we represent costly repairs or purchases by homeowners when an hvac system goes down.

Curtes would like to see manufacturers, distributors, and contractors make a concerted effort to promote the use of AEDs in all workplaces. He thinks that if our trade banded together to raise money for the purchase of AEDs, like the Wisconsin Bryant dealers, it would go a long way to promote goodwill.

Lee Curtes sees things in a different light now. He knows that a life is precious and that every effort to sustain life is so vitally important. If having an AED in the workplace or in a police patrol car can save only one life, then isn’t it worth the investment?

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); halljr@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 07/09/2001