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Three heroes save Pick 'n Save employee

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Jake Magee
July 18, 2014

JANESVILLE—A heart attack could have killed Thomas Anderson while he worked at Pick 'n Save on July 4, but the quick actions of good Samaritans saved him.

He owes his life to several people: paramedics, doctors, his boss and two shoppers.

Brad Radloff had finished shopping at the grocery store when he got into his car with his aunt Tammy Brenner and daughter Cabela, 4. That's when he heard carts crashing and looked in his car mirror, he said.

“Nine times out of 10, I would have jumped in the vehicle and drove down the road, but something was wrong. Something was in the air,” Radloff said. “I didn't see even the guy fall.”

Radloff spotted a leg under a vehicle. He found Anderson, 63, collapsed in the cart corral, gasping for air. Radloff dialed 911 and stayed with Anderson while Brenner ran inside the store for help.

“You see somebody like that, and it puts you in automatic mode where you just start doing whatever you need to do to try to help them out,” Brenner said. “You respond and do what you need to do.”

Radloff didn't know what was wrong with Anderson. He thought Anderson might have had a seizure, Radloff said. Brenner loosened Anderson's tie and shirt to allow him to breathe easier.

Pick 'n Save store director Karl Wetzel arrived seconds later. Trained in CPR, Wetzel performed chest compressions until paramedics arrived minutes later.

“If he hadn't had CPR when he did, there's no doubt he wouldn't be here,” Wetzel said. “He wasn't breathing, and he had no pulse. I'm just glad we got to him in time and were properly trained.”

Anderson isn't surprised people helped in his moment of need, but he's thankful.

“I appreciate what they did for me,” he said from his hospital room Friday. “It was something that I expected from people. That was the way I was (taught).”

Radloff is happy he helped save Anderson considering he lost a family member to a heart attack in the 1990s.

“I just did what I hoped anyone else would do when someone falls down,” Radloff said. “I lost a grandfather to a heart attack because no one knew what they were doing and he was in the middle of nowhere.”

Brenner, familiar with Anderson from regularly shopping at Pick 'n Save a few years ago, feels good knowing she helped someone in need.

“It makes me feel absolutely awesome. In fact, the next day, I actually had tears come to my eyes,” she said. “I don't think I would ever confront him about it, but I would definitely give him a hug.”

Anderson has worked at Janesville's Pick 'n Save for more than a decade collecting carts, picking up trash and helping customers. Employees and regular customers who know him worried he wouldn't recover from his medically induced coma, but he's on the road to recovery, Wetzel said.

“The big worry when he was unconscious was if he was going to come out of it. Now that he's come out of it, you could just see the relief in the store amongst the employees and customers that know Tom,” Wetzel said.

Anderson can move with the help of a walker, but he still has a way to go. He's on the list for double bypass heart surgery in a few weeks, Anderson said.

“It's gonna be some time. I gotta get strong,” he said.

Still, he wants to get back to work, and Wetzel said his job is waiting for him.

“We're all very happy that he's still with us. He's part of our Pick 'n Save family. When anybody is sick or in trouble like that, we all feel it,” Wetzel said.

Pick 'n Save employees have set up a donation jar at the service counter for anyone who wants to contribute toward Anderson's medical bills.

“We want to try to help. I think people in this town respond and help others out,” Wetzel said.

A certified CPR instructor will train hourly Pick 'n Save employees after Labor Day how to respond in a life-threatening situation, a direct response to Anderson's heart attack, he said.



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