DETROIT - Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 member Kevin Koslowski, 45, can't remember too much about what happened after he blacked out at 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12. But thanks to the presence of an automated external defibrillator (AED) on site at his workplace at the H.M. White shop in Detroit, plus the quick actions of his coworkers, Kevin lived to get filled in on the details.
"I was told I flat-lined three times that day," Kevin said at a luncheon held for him when he returned to visit the shop on Nov. 11. "I flat-lined once here, once in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, and once at the hospital."
A 20-year member of Local 80, Kevin had just driven a truck into the H.M. White loading dock at 7:15 that morning, exited the truck, then collapsed. "I didn't have any indication something like this would happen," he said. "I was sick the previous week, and I was a little winded, but I just figured it was because I had been sick. After 7:15, I really don't remember much. I just hit the ground."
Saving Kevin Koslowski's life was a team effort of his Local 80/H.M. White coworkers. Joe Floyd saw Kevin collapse. He called 911, alerted his coworkers, and John Frech performed CPR on Kevin with assistance from Mark Bartscht. Shop steward Daryl Glenday ran to get the company's AED.
Frech, who was about 15 feet away from Kevin when he collapsed, did chest compressions on his friend and coworker, and later performed mouth to mouth resuscitation. He said his most recent CPR training was in January. "When I first saw Kevin, he was laying there and his eyes were wide open, but he was gone, no pulse, no breathing," said Frech, a 16-year sheet metal worker. "So I just kept doing the chest compressions, and got his heart going again."
When Glenday returned, shop foreman John Jazewski set up the AED, which has a pad to attach to the victim's bare chest. It automatically determines whether the patient's heart should be shocked back into rhythm. Kevin had become unresponsive when CPR was stopped to allow for the AED. "It told us to stand clear and to get out of the way," Glenday said. "Then the shock lifted him right off the ground."
The AED worked. Kevin "came to, for a little bit, he had a little pulse but he was having trouble breathing." Glenday continued. "Kevin looked around for a little bit, like 'what just happened?' I'm a Christian, and I just began to pray while they worked on him. I've never been that close to death."
When it appeared as if he stopped breathing, Frech proceeded with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and that prompted Kevin to breath again. The whole experience took about 15 minutes before the first responders from the Detroit Fire Department arrived.
Koslowski said, "I remember I woke up once for five or ten seconds and saw everybody looking over me, but then I blacked out again." The Detroit EMS transported him to Sanai Grace Hospital, accompanied by Joe Floyd. "Then the next thing I remember is waking up at the hospital, and they had already did everything."
"Everything" included surgery with the placement of two stints in his heart. Kevin suffered a serious heart attack - known as a "widowmaker" - in which there is only about a 10 percent survival rate. Married with three children, Kevin thankfully was one of those 10 percent. He spent eight days in the hospital.
"I talked to the guys and thanked them all for what they did," Koslowski said. "It really opened up their eyes - it opened up my eyes - to what could happen to you. I'm really thankful to be here." Koslowski said at the luncheon that he feels fine, lost 30 pounds during the experience, and is currently wearing a portable heart monitor and defibrillator around his shoulder, which can shock his heart automatically in the event of a repeat episode. Kevin said he would see his doctor in the next few weeks to determine when he can go back to work.
Frech, who performed CPR on Kevin, said H.M. White employees train every three years in first aid and CPR. "I always thought it would be cool to save a life, and now this just shows how important it is to have CPR training and an AED available," he said. "I'm just grateful that H.M. White had a defibrillator on site, and hopefully this will create awareness for everybody to know where it's located where they work, and get trained in CPR."
H.M. White has had an automated external defibrillator (AED) in its Detroit plant since 2001. The presence of the AED at H.M. White and the CPR training is in concert with the advanced "Ready to Work" safety program agreement entered into between Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 and their partner-employers with the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA) - Detroit Chapter.
SMACNA Detroit Administrator Charlene Zezawa said the Ready to Work Safety Program was launched Dec. 1, 2015 and was the brainchild of Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 Business Manager Mark Saba and SMACNA Detroit General Counsel Tony Asher that complements the Management and Unions Serving Together (MUST) program, with training geared toward the specific needs of individual employers within the sheet metal industry.
Sheet Metal Workers can take online safety education modules which are recorded in an online database which both workers and employers have access. Employers access the database to view workers who are "ready for work" because they have met specific training requirements of jobsites and workers have a portable toolbox of their individual sheet metal skill and safety training. In addition, the Ready to Work Safety Program offers sheet metal workers a stipend incentive every year when specific training requirements are completed including OSHA 30, MUST drug testing and safety awareness modules, and specific sheet metal industry safety training modules (such as fall protection and operating lifts).
"When a SMACNA Detroit employer has a need for workers who are, for example, OSHA 30 trained, there's a database that's available with a roster of workers who are available, right now, to go to work," Zezawa said. "It's a safety program tailor-made for the sheet metal industry."
She added: "Ready to work is not responsible for the presence of an AED or the great worker response at H.M. White, but what the Ready to Work Safety Program has done is created awareness, and provided tools for people to react to emergencies. What happened here at H.M. White could happen anywhere, and it's important to be prepared."
Saba said: "The use of the AED and CPR training is part of our safety program in the sheetmetal industry.
This program has helped to save the life of one of our union brothers and will definitely help more members in the future. This near tragedy has led to H.M. White revamping their safety policy to include AED’s on all work sites in the future. Completing the Ready for Work program modules is also going to make our people more marketable in the industry. Management and labor working together can save lives. Thank you H.M. White and especially our members of Local 80."
SURVIVING A WIDOW MAKER heart attack, which has a survival rate of less than 10 percent, is Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 member Kevin Koslowski, forward at left. Kevin’s life was sustained after he collapsed at his workplace at H.M. White in Detroit by the timely use of CPR and an automated external defibrillator, one of which was on site and retrieved by co-worker Darryl Glenday, standing next to him. With them are Local 80 Business Manager Mark Saba and Charlene Zezawa, administrator, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association Metro Detroit Chapter. Behind them are H.M. White shopmates who are very happy to see Kevin back on his feet.