Special Coverage  

Sometimes Your Job Can Have Life-or-Death Stakes — And This Legal Manager Was Prepared

When you visit Nashville-based firm Lewis Thomason’s website, the words “Our strength is our people” are splashed across the page. These words took on an even greater meaning in early February when coworkers put their training to use to save a colleague’s life.
Valerie A. Danner

Tania Freeman, Office Administrator at the firm and member of the Middle Tennessee Chapter, says her first inclination that something was wrong was when a managing partner notified her that one of their attorneys, John Lewis, had passed out by the elevator. “He had not been feeling well; we thought he had the flu and we were headed to help him,” says Tania. “However, another attorney caught us in the hall and said that we needed the AED team. That’s when I realized that we had a serious medical issue.”

Just 10 months earlier, some employees in the office — Tania included — had undergone training in using an automated external defibrillator (AED), a device designed to deliver a shock to a person’s heart. They’d also received CPR training.

By the time Tania got to the elevator lobby, another team member was performing CPR compressions. However, John wasn’t breathing and they couldn’t detect a pulse. Rather than panic, Tania put her training to work. She grabbed the AED and began application of the shock pads. “The AED talks you through exactly what to do, but I definitely felt the confidence of the training. Once the shock pads were applied, the machine told us to cease compressions and get clear of the body. It ran its test and announced a shock was indicated. In other words, his heart was not beating,” she says.

After the first shock, Tania says she and the team resumed compressions until the machine indicated it needed to run its test. “It shocked John again and he began to breathe and had a pulse.” She says after a few minutes, John resumed consciousness and was even able to speak. “We talked to him to keep him conscious until the ambulance arrived.”

Once at the hospital, John was immediately rushed into surgery. The doctor informed John’s family that his type of heart attack involved the anterior interventricular branch of the left coronary artery, often referred by its more ominous nickname: the widow-maker. Those with this type of heart attack usually don’t have such successful outcomes. “The doctor informed his family that less than 1 percent of people survive this type of cardiac arrest,” says Tania.

The physician also left no doubt as to why John beat that grim statistic — it was a direct result of the quick use of CPR and, most importantly, the AED.

Remarkably, after a couple weeks of recovery, John was back at work.


AEDs are becoming more commonplace in public areas and offices. Tania says her firm implemented training on the device in April 2017. While she’s used to stepping in on many tasks as a legal administrator, she says she never thought one of those tasks would be saving a life. But the firm wanted staff to be prepared for potential medical emergencies.

She hopes people reading this will take this story to heart. “Do not wait to buy an AED machine. It is absolutely worth the cost.”

Tania also suggests training a wide cross-section of employees and attorneys — the more the better. “We trained 12 people in our 50-person office and we ended up having three trained people in the office that day. While it worked fine for this particular incident, we realized we wanted more people trained.” She says remind the staff where the machine is located, as new employees may not even realize you have one. And just like your smoke detectors at home, periodically check the AED battery to make sure the device is operational. All relatively small investments when you consider invaluable results.

“It could be years before you use [an AED], but when it saves a life you will know that the machine is priceless ... I am simply stunned when I think about it and I still get emotional when I talk about it,” says Tania. “I know that I witnessed a miracle that day and the fact that I was a part of that is quite humbling. John is here walking around the office every day. That is amazing to me.”