Oakland County Recognizes Employees for Actions That Save the Life of a Coworker

Post Date:02/14/2024 1:55 PM
  • Oakland County IT employees found their co-worker, James Fortune, unconscious at work. They called 911, performed CPR, and used an automated external defibrillator to resuscitate him, saving his life.
  • On Valentine’s Day, County Executive Dave Coulter and others joined Fortune, who is back on the job, in expressing gratitude for their swift, life-saving actions.
  • Oakland County offers AED/CPR training to its employees and has AED machines distributed throughout county buildings. Learning CPR and AED saves lives.

LEFT: Waterford Area Fire Department Lt. Steve Meier, Chief Matt Covey, County Executive Dave Coulter and James Fortune.

Pontiac, Mich. ­– While some were focused on matters of the heart this Valentine’s Day, Oakland County was celebrating matters of James Fortune’s heart after his county coworkers saved him from what could have been a fatal heart attack. County Executive Dave Coulter joined Fortune in sharing the gratitude for saving his life during a ceremony with his Information Technology colleagues today.


“The Oakland County Information Technology Department has a tight-knit bunch of workers who sprang into action that morning to help their co-worker,” Coulter said. “Their selfless and instinctive actions are a true reflection of our values in Oakland County – respecting and caring for one another.”

On Sept. 13, 2023, Fortune’s coworkers found him collapsed, not breathing, and without a heartbeat in the county’s Information Technology Building in Waterford. They rallied together to save his life by calling 911 for help, performing CPR, and using an automated external defibrillator (AED) to resuscitate him.

IT employee Todd Simpson called out to identify coworkers who have AED/CPR training. Steve Jennings, Jeff Long, and Steve Erkins responded, performing CPR and utilizing the AED, while another dialed 911. A Waterford Township dispatcher aided in guiding Fortune’s resuscitation.

Other IT employees honored today for their life-saving actions along with Simpson, Jennings, Long, and Erkins were Dawn Clark-Pitts, Addie Hankins, Scott Kaiser, Stacy Metcalf, Melba Collins, Casey Hanson, Jill Nagi, Tammi Shepherd, and Janet Brinker.

“They deserve any honor I can give them. They did a fantastic job,” said Fortune, a 67-year-old Pontiac resident. He added that his doctors told him there was no permanent damage to his heart because of the prompt actions of his coworkers.

Coulter gave each employee a challenge coin for their quick reaction which saved Fortune’s life. The challenge coins remind recipients of the county’s values of community, respect, inclusion, and gratitude.

Fortune has embraced the value of gratitude now that he has recovered from his heart attack. The former college athlete who ran cross country and wrestled said he has been biking five to 10 miles a day and walking. Next, he said he will train to run a marathon.

“My plan is to stay in shape the rest of my life. There are no shortcuts anymore,” said Fortune, who returned to work Oct. 25.

Waterford Regional Fire Department Chief Matt Covey, who attended today’s private recognition ceremony, sent a note to Coulter and others at the county on the day of Fortune’s episode, emphasizing that CPR and AED training saves lives.

“This morning over at the IT building our crews responded to a cardiac arrest. I have been informed that a team of county employees did an absolutely amazing job using an AED and performing CPR,” Covey said.

Oakland County offers CPR/AED training to its employees on an ongoing basis. In 2023, 306 county employees completed CPR/AED training across 32 classes. The county also maintains 174 AED machines in county buildings ensuring the ability to respond to a cardiac emergency. There have been at least three saves of county employees by AED since 2016.

“I was working for the right place. Had this happened anywhere else, I would have died,” Fortune said.