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Three staffers lauded for saving life of Hesed House resident

From left Jim Bardusk Tom Zimmerman Cheryl Kane show off their 'Hesed Hearts' they received Wednesday after saving life homeless

From left, Jim Bardusk, Tom Zimmerman and Cheryl Kane show off their "Hesed Hearts" they received Wednesday after saving the life of a homeless shelter resident. | Denise Crosby~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 21, 2014 3:41PM

The morning of Feb. 10 started out as a regular day at Hesed House — with a few things out of the norm that turned the day, well, quite extraordinary.

Residents of the Aurora homeless shelter weren’t supposed to be sitting in the dining area this late, around 7:30, on that frigid morning. But because it was so cold outside, that Monday had been designated as a warming day, and they were allowed to stay at the shelter instead of venturing out.

John, a 60-year-old resident, even had a friend’s house to stay at for the day. So the fact he was sitting at the breakfast table really was out of the norm.

Cheryl Kane probably would not have been there, either. But because of a tuberculosis outbreak over a year ago at the shelter, the Kane County Health Department had assigned her and another nurse to work mornings at Hesed House to monitor the situation.

Jim Bardusk, assistant director of PADS, and Tom Zimmerman, assistant development director, also happened to be in the dining room that Monday morning. And it was Zimmerman who first noticed John seemed to have fallen asleep.

After attempting to nudge him awake, however, it became quickly apparent something more serious was going on.

That’s when Kane, using her 30 years of nursing experience, realized “he had either choked on something or had a heart attack.”

Finding no pulse, Kane immediately began compressions, trying to oxygenate the dying man’s body. Meanwhile, Bardusk called 911 and continued talking to the dispatcher, while also directing traffic and clearing the room. And Zimmerman ran to get the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on the wall in the kitchen … and fired it up.

It took two shocks to John’s body, and finally a slight pulse was detected. All three recall no panic, although 23-year-old Bardusk admitted being “a little scared.”

After all, “you don’t see this every day,” he added, “or in a lifetime, for that matter.”

The trio of everyday heroes continued doing what needed to be done to keep John alive.

“We were not going to give up,” said Zimmerman, whose thoughts were echoed by the other two.

Later, paramedics, who worked on John for half an hour, told Hesed House officials the patient had flatlined three times. And his prognosis did not look good even after he arrived at Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora.

But this extraordinary day has a happy ending. John not only survived, the thankful staffers were able to visit him several times in the hospital.

“And he looked better than I’d ever seen him,” said Zimmerman, a large smile spreading across his face.

John is scheduled to be released from the hospital on Wednesday. After building his health back up again, he will undergo quadruple bypass surgery in the near future.

Another extraordinary piece of timing, noted Hesed House Executive Director Michael Cobb, as of Jan. 1, John has insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Sometimes fate, and faith, really is all about timing. Says Kane, “God puts people in the right place at the right time.”

On Wednesday, the Hesed House dining room was again filled with all sorts of excitement. This time, residents and employees gathered before lunch to laud Kane, Zimmerman and Bardusk for their life-saving actions.

“We celebrate these three,” said Cobb, “because they are the heart that is behind the mission at Hesed House: to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.”

When it was Kane’s turn to talk, she turned the tables on the residents, and gave thanks to all of them.

“It is truly a blessing and an honor to be here every day,” she said, her voice heavy with emotion.

“We have never had an assignment or job we have enjoyed more in our nursing careers … than coming here and meeting all you wonderful folks.”

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