Seconds to Save: Employees Help Co-worker Survive Heart Attack at Work

View a firsthand account from those who were there when Chuck had a heart attack at work.

Chuck DeBruler, a 33-year Consumers Energy employee, lives a relatively healthy lifestyle. He’ll opt for a salad over a burger, has perfect cholesterol and has good blood pressure.

So last year when the “heartburn” feeling hit, he didn’t think much of it. He went for a walk to try and shake the funny feeling in his chest until he noticed a pain in his left arm. Shaken, he headed inside to sit down and relax.

“When I started sweating, I knew I was in trouble,” DeBruler said. As he entered the lobby, Security Guard Dick Gonding asked how he was doing.

“You better call 911; I think I might be having a heart attack,” he said. DeBruler doesn’t remember much after that.

Gonding called 911, pulled out the automated external defibrillator (AED) equipment and paged the first responder team, who are trained to administer CPR, first aid and the AED.

Members of the first responder team, Steve Nadeau and Valonda Pinkerton, responded to the page within a minute. They shocked DeBruler’s heart and started CPR. Within four minutes the ambulance arrived. VIDEO: Consumers Energy employees help co-worker survive heart attack

John Russell, President and CEO, later presented Nadeau and Pinkerton with the company’s highest honor, the Meritorious Service Award.

Co-workers became friends and heroes that day. “My two guardian angels responded,” recalled DeBruler, “I am here today because of them. They will always have a special place in the hearts of me and my family.”

DeBruler suffered sudden cardiac arrest due to a fully blocked left anterior descending (LAD) artery, also known as the “widow maker.” The doctor said the chance of survival for such blockages is 4 percent.

DeBruler believes he is alive today because of Consumers Energy’s emphasis on safety. “I was with the right people, at the right place, at the right time,” he said. If he had stayed out in the parking lot or attempted to drive home, the outcome might have been different.

“My life was saved because the company always puts safety first and invests time and money in equipment and training,” DeBruler said.

Thank you to the medical responders, Blackman Township EMTs and all those who saved Chuck’s life.