Allina Health employees jump into action for coworker in cardiac arrest

[Allina Health Newsroom, February 08, 2024] “I’ve been told I’m pretty lucky,” said Jim Svoboda, a maintenance engineer with Allina Health. At 56-years-old, Svoboda collapsed in October while helping his team prepare the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute (CKRI) – St. Croix – Stillwater property for winter.

“My back was to Jim at the time, and I caught a glimpse of the chainsaw coming out of his hand,” said CR Stephens, an Allina Health maintenance technician. “He went to the ground. He was on his side, and then he rolled to his back and his eyes were open.”


Believing Svoboda had tripped and fallen, Stephens turned to their teammates for help. They jumped into action, called 911 and declared a Code Blue, which indicates an immediate need for medical aid often due to cardiac arrest.

“Code Blue were the words they called over the intercom, and when you hear those words, you just know,” said Kate Brown, a physical therapist at CKRI – St. Croix – Stillwater. Brown joined at least three other employees who ran to help Svoboda. By that time, he was turning blue.

Armed with a defibrillator and their basic life support (BLS) training, they got to work to help Svoboda. “It was more like running off adrenaline. We all just communicated really well,” explained Katie Little who has been a physical therapist with CKRI-St. Croix – Stillwater for more than two years.

Little and her team continued CPR, while Stephens led another group to clear tree debris and anything else that could slow down the ambulance. By the time Svoboda was on the gurney, he was talking again.

When he reached the hospital, he learned what happened to him. “They said you had a cardiac arrest, and I was like ‘really?’,” shared Svoboda.

Cardiac arrest versus heart attack

Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating suddenly, which is different from a heart attack where blood flow to the heart is reduced or blocked. Looking back, Svoboda admits there were signs of heart trouble he didn’t recognize. The father of five noticed weight gain and increased fatigue. He figured it was part of getting older and being a bit out of shape.

Today, Svoboda is twenty pounds lighter, adjusting to life with less sodium, sugar and caffeine and attending his cardiac rehab program.

Basic life support training

Svoboda and his wife were all smiles as they joined the team of Allina Health colleagues who helped save him during a celebration lunch in January. During the lunch, leaders credited the team’s training and dedication to care for the lifesaving, quick response.


Since CKRI – Stillwater – St. Croix is an outpatient rehab facility, there are no doctors and nurses on staff. However, all Allina Health clinicians are now required to take basic life support (BLS) training and Little said she and her colleagues completed their most recent round of training just a few months before Svoboda’s collapse. “This is a prime example of why training is critical. In an emergency, you draw from the knowledge you’ve learned so many times in the past,” said Brown.

“If I would have been home and down in my shop, my wife would have found me,” said Svoboda. His wife, Linda, added, “I have taken CPR in the past, but I feel like I would have panicked. He was at the right place at the right time. He was outside of a medical clinic versus driving or being out in the woods. We are very thankful to everyone who intervened.”

“I think it’s a miracle. It’s not even short of a miracle. He wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the staff that’s here,” said Stephens.

Because they saw how the therapists' quick actions saved Svoboda, members of the maintenance team have since completed CPR training too.

Jim Svoboda with his wife, Linda.


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