First responders help Braidwood man beat the odds

CALL OF THE QUARTER! Jeff Hartman (center) was saved after he went into cardiac arrest earlier this year, thanks to the quick actions of his wife Barb and daughter Addison. The Hartman family met with emergency responders at the Braidwood Fire Station on May 3, getting a chance to thank in person (from left) Deputy Fire Chief Michael Pemble, BPD Officer Adam Beatty, BPD Officer James Helsing, paramedic Austin Plumley, paramedic Cody Cabada, and Fire Captain Michael Shorkey. Photo by Marney Simon.

Marney Simon

It was on a typical weeknight in Braidwood this past February when suddenly, everything changed for the Hartman family.

At home on an otherwise uneventful evening on Feb. 27, Jeff Hartman collapsed in his home, as his wife Barb and daughter Addison were just in the next room.

It was a sudden and terrifying change to a normal and quiet winter night at home.

“It was a Monday night, he came home from work, [Jeff and Addison] went to the garage to change the oil in her car,” Barb said. “They came in, we ate dinner, and he sat down on the couch. I went down the hall with Addison to help her with homework. We weren’t even down the hall for five minutes, and we heard a crash. We both looked at each other and thought, what did the cats do now? But both of the cats were in the room with us. So we knew that wasn’t it, and then I heard a very loud noise so we went to the living room and I found him slumped over and struggling to breathe.”

Barb, a nurse, instructed Addison to call 911 and immediately began performing CPR on her husband.

At 6:42 p.m., emergency responders were dispatched to the Hartman home for a possible stroke. The call was upgraded enroute to a full cardiac arrest.

Jeff had no pulse when help arrived at his home just blocks from the Braidwood Fire Station.

“Even though I’m a nurse and I know CPR, when you’re put in that situation, you’re very thankful for the 911 operator,” Barb said. “She walked me through it.”

Barb said that after about 60 compressions, Jeff started to breathe, though it was irregular. Within moments, emergency responders were in the living room, taking over.

Jeff had an abnormal rhythm, low blood pressure, and need for fluids en route to Riverside Medical Center, and had a pulse and an established airway by the time the BFPD arrived in Kankakee.

“I remember zero,” Jeff said of the night, adding that the last thing he can remember was several days earlier.

“I remember part of Friday night, a little bit,” he said. “No Saturday, no Sunday, all the way through until the next Friday. Once they finally got the tube out and woke me up in the ICU, the next day we were walking around and it’s been all uphill.”

For 16-year-old Addison, seeing her dad fall ill and her mother jump to take charge during an emergency was a life changing event for her as well.

“She’s normally been my rock for these past 16 years, and to see her so scrambled about how she felt, that sent me into reality, that this isn’t a bad nightmare, this is my dad and there’s a possibility that he might not make it through,” Addison said. “But, seeing her at work, I’ve never seen her in nurse mode other than at work. I’ve never seen her save somebody’s life and do what she’s been doing for her entire life. For me, that was different.”

Addison said she was grateful for her mom’s quick action and her dad’s recovery, which is going well.

The cause of his heart attack is still unknown, but Jeff now has a cardioverter-defibrillator, a battery-powered implant in his chest to detect and stop an irregular heartbeat.

He said there’s a balance between making good choices all the time, and being thankful for everyday things.

“Live your life,” he said. “Life can be short. It was a quick wake up call. If they had diagnosed me with something and things were going downhill, we could prepare ourselves. But, this was out of the blue. Every time I’d been to the doctor I was healthy, and then boom. So, just live life, just enjoy yourself, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination.”

The quick action of both Barb and first responders made the save an unusual one, if only because of the bleak statistics on cardiac arrest fatalities.

“It’s not every day that we get somebody who we actually saved, who can come to the station. It is such a pleasure and so heartwarming,” said Tonya Cavanaugh, EMS coordinator for the Braidwood Fire Protection District. “We believe early CPR played a key role in his survival and his favorable outcome. It’s not easy to CPR on a loved one.”

On May 3, the Hartman family as well as those first responders spent time together at the Braidwood Fire Station on Main Street, where the department was lauded by Riverside Medical Center’s EMS team and awarded the “Call of the Quarter” for the second quarter of 2023.

Each year, about 400,000 Americans suffer a heart attack, but only 10% survive.

“So, when you look at that, what a success story,” said Al Ponton, EMT-P, RN, MSN, who is the EMS System Manager for Riverside. “So, we’re here to just look at everybody. From the dispatch that took that call, to law enforcement that got on the scene as first responders to assist, to the Braidwood Fire Department. At Riverside, we always want to promote EMS and first responders for the job that they do well.”

Ponton also noted that learning CPR is a skill everyone should aim to acquire, as it can be a lifesaver just like it was in this case.

BFPD Captain Michael Shorkey thanked the first responders for utilizing their skills and training for a life-saving job well done.

“These guys hit a home run that night. There were a lot of things going on, but you see all the training, all the preparation. This doesn’t work without everyone working,” he said.
Shorkey added that everyone on scene played a role, from helping to keep Jeff Hartman alive to carrying equipment to getting information and calming the family.

“It was a witness arrest, CPR was started,” Shorkey said. “By the time we get to the house, it’s already going… That’s why we train, that’s why we work as a team. We saved this man’s life, and that’s a win. All the other stuff, we talk about it, we learn from it, and it gets us ready for the next call, which is coming. That’s one guarantee, it’s coming.”

Life Saving Awards were presented by Riverside to paramedic Austin Plumley, paramedic Cody Cabada, EMT/driver David Tatrow, paramedic Andre Olchawa, Captain Michael Shorkey, Deputy Chief Michael Pemble, BPD Officer James Helsing, BPD Officer Adam Beatty, and Wescom Dispatcher Krysyna Kovacik.