Lumbee River EMC crew puts lifesaving training into action

Timmy Mendoza says he ensures his first aid and automated external defibrillator (AED) training is up to date every year, but in his 26 years as a lineworker, he has never had to think about using it in a real-life scenario.

That changed on January 4 of this year.

Mendoza, a team leader and general foreman at Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation, recalls his crew taking a lunch break at one of their usual spots, Forest Acres Grocery. As they entered the store, he heard a woman yelling for someone to call 911. Turning the corner, they saw a man lying on the ground.

“Without even thinking twice about it, we jumped into action,” said Mendoza. “Everything we had ever learned kicked in. Two guys ran to get the AED we keep on our trucks, and the rest of us rushed to his aid, ready to help where we could.”

Within minutes, Mendoza and his crew—Jason Lowery, Donnie Hammonds, Cranston Lowery, and Earl Woods—began CPR and applied the AED to help restore the man’s heart rhythm. Mendoza said the man had experienced cardiac arrest, and the group took every precautionary measure possible until medics could arrive.

“Luckily, one of the guys on my crew is a volunteer fireman, and that helped us a lot in that situation,” said Mendoza. “We talked as a group afterward, and we all said we are thankful for the training that Lumbee River EMC provides for us each year. Classes like that make all the difference, and in this situation, it potentially helped save someone’s life.”

The man was transferred to an ambulance when medics arrived and was transported to UNC Health Southeastern. According to Lumbee River EMC, he had a return of spontaneous circulation when he arrived at the hospital.

Training makes a difference

Employees across all 26 of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives routinely take part in trainings and practice procedures for first aid, CPR, AED and other rescue efforts to keep their skills sharp in case of any unforeseen emergency. Mark Walters, the director of corporate safety for Lumbee River EMC, says it’s part of the commitment to keeping their employees, members and communities safe.

“Practicing and training emergency procedures is essential for any organization,” said Walters. “Training encourages teamwork and communication, ensures swift medical response, and guarantees everyone knows what to do until professional help arrives, potentially saving lives.”

Walters said when he heard about the crew’s timely response, he was proud of their willingness to step in and believes it was their dedication to taking their training seriously that made a difference.

“Co-ops are one big family, and that doesn’t just include our employees, but also the folks we serve every day,” said Walters. “Being able to assist in an emergency that does not involve poles and wires shows that we care and are here for our community in every way possible.”

As co-ops continue to reinforce and evolve their safety training, Walters said he hopes this story serves as an inspiration to all employees that they can make a major impact in their community by being trained and certified.

“There are always those who have been trained in emergency procedures and are very knowledgeable of those procedures but are still hesitant to respond for different reasons,” said Walters. “Seeing their coworkers respond and give care, possibly saving a person’s life, will hopefully give others the confidence they need to act if they ever find themselves in an emergency situation.”

Moment of recognition

Robert Ivey, commander of Lumberton Rescue and EMS, sent a letter to the crew of lineworkers to officially express his gratitude, saying:

“Oftentimes people do not wish to be involved or render aid for whatever reason. These men saw the situation and took appropriate action, possibly saving this person’s life. They were definitely the right people at the right time. LREMC should be proud to have employees like these on their staff.”

Mendoza said when his crew read the letter, they were overwhelmed by the support they received.

“That was a feeling that we will all remember for the rest of our lives,” said Mendoza. “For them to come and thank us, that was a great feeling knowing that we stepped in and helped by doing the right thing.”

While Mendoza says he heard the good news about the man’s recovery, his crew still doesn’t know the identity of the individual. Whether they ever find out one day, he says he would let him know that it’s all part of the job.

“We became lineworkers because we believe in serving our communities,” said Mendoza. “Whether that be repairing lines or putting our safety training to work, we are ready to answer the call and help the people we care about.”