On Oct. 22, Tom Branden went into cardiac arrest while working the final leg of his shift in Hormel Food’s grocery division at Hormel’s flagship plant in Austin, Minn. He was saved thanks to a team of nine co-workers who came to his rescue, reviving him with the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
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I was the first one to spot him,” said Darwin Sellers, a 39-year employee who’s known Branden for years. “He was flat on the floor, motionless. His helmet was about 5 feet away from him. He absolutely didn’t move.”
Sellers ran to a nearby office and called the plant emergency number. He knew he didn’t have time to check for vital signs when he first found his friend.
“It was like an inner instinct,” Sellers said. “If he was hurt in some way, he’d be moving. I thought then that it might have been too late because of his color.”
While Sellers was on the phone, Jordan Williamson was on his way to Branden.
“I tried to get Tom to respond,” Williamson said. “He wasn’t breathing.”
The 20-year-old had no medical training, he said, “so I just stayed with him until someone came, and kept trying to get him to respond.”
Supervisors in Branden’s area reached him within seconds and began chest compressions and resuscitation.
The on-site medical team reached Branden on the heels of the supervisors, bringing an automated external defibrillator, or AED.
The AED, which automatically diagnoses heart rhythms, was attached to Branden. A shock was advised; the team delivered it. Branden’s heart responded.
First taken to Austin Medical Center, Branden was then flown by helicopter to Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
All nine people involved had a specific role to play, Sellers said — and something else did, too. Call it coincidence, luck, a miracle; whatever the word, the rescue team had it.
Sellers, for example, was using a time clock he normally didn’t use. Had he punched in at a different site, he wouldn’t have seen Branden on the floor.
One of Branden’s supervisors had completed the annual CPR training that morning, the other had finished the day before.
“I’d like to thank Hormel Food Corp. for having everything here,” Branden said later at the Heartsaver Hero presentations, “and everyone here who worked on me. If it wasn’t for Hormel Foods, I wouldn’t be here today.”
A 26-year Hormel employee, Branden was saved by one of 14 AED units installed around the Austin Plant. With 150 employees trained in the use of the defibrillators, Branden’s rescue was swift and effective.
All who responded said the most rewarding part of this crisis is seeing Branden alive today.