It’s a wonderful life for PPG’s Jim Stewart 

Alive today because of co-workers

At this time of the year, many people watch Jimmy Stewart’s holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But PPG’s Jim Stewart has an inspiring story of his own.

  Jim Stewart

Last year, Stewart – a development chemist at PPG’s Cleveland coatings plant – experienced a life-changing moment. One year later, he’s able to look back and give thanks to his fellow employees who rushed to his aid.

On Nov. 7, Stewart held a re-birthday celebration to thank members of the plant’s emergency response team for bringing him back to life through their quick and expert actions.

“The last thing I remember was talking to a co-worker,” Stewart said. “I was told later that I walked to the men’s room located a floor above and collapsed. A young lady who works nearby heard the commotion and asked a male co-worker to check on what happened. Rick Palumbo (applications manager) found me sprawled unconscious on the floor and immediately sounded the alarm for the emergency response team.”

Fortunately for Stewart, fellow employee Pete Carelli was walking by. Carelli, operations engineer, quickly analyzed the problem and was joined by fellow emergency response team (ERT) members Bob Strebelow (applications launch coordinator), and Brian Smith (color development assistant) in performing chest compressions on Stewart. Within just a couple minutes, 10 members of the facility’s ERT converged on the scene to assist while Stewart awaited an ambulance to arrive (about 30 minutes later).
Jim Stewart (center) is flanked by lifesavers (from left) Pete Carelli, operations engineer; Patti Law, nurse; Marylu Mellott, nurse; Bob Strebelow, applications launch coordinator; Rick Palumbo, applications manager; and Brian Smith, senior development assistant. Stewart is holding the automated external defibrillator (AED) which was used to save his life.

“My heart had stopped, and I wasn’t breathing,” said Stewart, who later discovered that a change in medication caused a cardiac arrest.

“According to one of the responders, I was as blue as the ‘Papa Smurf’ cartoon character. They had to use the automated external defibrillator (AED) three times before my heart started again. All of my doctors told me I was the luckiest man alive, because I would not be here today if another 30 seconds had lapsed. I owe my life to my co-workers. They responded, knew what to do and did it.”

A week after the incident, Stewart was back at work on a part-time basis. He resumed his normal full-time schedule following heart surgery this past January.

“My co-workers now call me the second-chance kid,” he said. “I got that chance because of them.”