During break from negotiations, UFCW members provide lifesaving first aid

Members of the Prescott nursing home bargaining team: (L to R) Kim Nelson, Karen Peterson, Gayla Morrison and Jody Pederson.

Members of the Prescott nursing home bargaining team: (L to R) Kim Nelson, Karen Peterson, Gayla Morrison and Jody Pederson.

Four Prescott Nursing and Rehabilitation Community workers got more than they bargained for during a break from contract negotiations Tuesday in South St. Paul.

As Gayla Morrison, Kim Nelson, Jody Pederson and Karen Peterson walked into Angelo’s Italian Restaurant for lunch with their union representative, they noticed a woman hunched over, struggling to breathe.

“It was apparent she was choking,” Peterson said. “She was unresponsive. So we got her into a position where we could do the Heimlich maneuver.”

A charge nurse on the night shift at the Wisconsin nursing home, Peterson naturally took the lead in working to stabilize the woman.

“It wasn’t out of the ordinary to look for her to tell us what to do, and she did,” Morrison said. “Karen kept us going.”

The co-workers were able to get the choking patron to start breathing again, and they provided constant updates to a 911 operator while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

That wait was no more than five minutes, but “it felt like it was about 20,” Morrison said.

Executing the Heimlich is part of mandatory CPR re-certification nursing home workers must complete every two years, and the four co-workers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189, said their quick response at the restaurant was instinctual.

Witnesses, though, called it heroic.

“It’s a very good thing they got there when they did,” Local 1189’s Mike Dreyer said.

Peterson, Morrison, Nelson and Pederson make up the bargaining team for workers at the Prescott nursing home. The union has been in negotiations with the company on a new contract for about a month.

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