Widower Hailed as Hero
by Bruce Kozarsky, Union Leader Editor
It started out as a typical day for Adam Carter Peak, head meat cutter and Local 400 shop steward at Kroger #406 in Appomattox, Va. But then, all of a sudden, his store manager ran in and told him to get some ice—a truck driver making a delivery had collapsed from heat exhaustion.
Adam ran out with the ice, but he saw that the driver, whose last name was Goin, wasn’t breathing. “I took my meat coat off, laid him down on his back, put it under his neck and started doing CPR,” Adam recalled. “After about four minutes, which seemed like forever, the paramedics came, but they let me keep doing CPR. A minute or two later, they told me to step away, put paddles on him and gave him a shock, and then they told me to go back to doing CPR. I did it another 20 minutes or so. I kept thinking, ‘Why aren’t the experts doing this?’ but I wasn’t going to stop.
“Then, the next thing you know, he took a big breath,” Adam said. “He was breathing when they put him in the ambulance and took him to the hospital.” About six hours later, Goin’s surgeon called Adam and told him his CPR had saved Goin’s life. If it wasn’t for Adam, the man would not have survived his heart attack.
Adam was physically exhausted—but also emotionally drained. Just six months earlier, his wife, Laura—the mother of their four-year old daughter Madison and two-year-old son Carter—died suddenly and unexpectedly from an aneurysm. “I just got emotional,” Adam said. “This was the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced since then. The look on Mr. Goin’s face was the same look on my wife’s eyes when she passed. I just said, ‘I am not going to let this happen to anyone else.’” And he didn’t.
The next day, Goin’s son and daughter-in-law came to the store, shook Adam’s hand and said, “My dad’s alive because of you. Thanks to you, his two grandchildren will get to know their grandfather.” Goin’s wife also called to deliver the same message of thanks. Adam didn’t know what to say in response. “I was just doing what I’d want done if the same thing happened to me,” he said.
Ironically, Adam has never been formally trained in CPR. “A buddy of mine in law enforcement told me how to do CPR a few years ago and I’ve seen what they do on TV,” he said. “I guess I must have been doing it right, since the paramedics told me to keep it up.”
“Adam will never say this because he’s a very humble guy, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s a hero,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “He saw that a man was dying and jumped in to save his life. That would be a good deed under any circumstances, but the fact that he has been through so much makes it all the more impressive. He has my deepest admiration and respect.
“I’d also note that what Adam did is what shop stewards throughout our union do, only on a much larger scale,” Federici said. “They’re problem solvers. In this case, the problem Adam solved had life or death consequences. And thank God he didn’t hesitate.”
Adam, who has worked at Kroger for 5 ½ years, became a shop steward within just a few weeks of joining the company. “I told my rep I wanted to be steward,” he said. “My dad was a proud union member, and I wanted to help people, too.”
Today, Adam continues to adjust to life without his wife, as a single dad raising two young children. Fortunately, Kroger has been accommodating when he needs flexibility in his work schedule and his wife’s parents help out too. His courage, his perseverance and his attitude of “doing unto others” have earned him the good will of all Local 400 members.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Union Leader, the quarterly magazine of UFCW Local 400.