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March 17, 2008

Mike is a man like any other. He runs a business. He kisses his wife goodbye in the morning before he leaves for work. Mike has only one trait that makes him different from nearly every other human being on the planet.

You see, Mike is alive, but he should be dead.

Mike left the restaurant where he had lunch, and began to walk back to his office. That is the last thing he remembers about that day, and about the week that followed. The rest of the events of that day have been reconstructed from those who witnessed the events that transpired.

As he walked down the sidewalk, Mike clutched his chest and slumped to the sidewalk. As luck would have it, Mike’s first lucky break of the day was that three nearby citizens saw him fall, and they knew CPR. One of them called 911 while the other two began CPR. Mike received his second break when the ambulance beat the train to the crossing a block away. Had they not done so, the ambulance would have been delayed by several minutes at a time when minutes count most.

The paramedics on the scene took over CPR and placed him on the monitor. Noting that Mike was in ventricular fibrillation, they shocked him at 200 joules. He converted, as often happens, to asystole. CPR was resumed. Mike was transferred to a backboard and placed on a stretcher. The paramedics noted that Mike was again in V-Fib, and again shocked him at 200 joules. This time, he converted to a sinus rhythm, albeit with frequent PVC’s. A pulse check found a weak pulse. The medics started an IV, and intubated Mike. The medics then started a 150mg infusion of cordarone, and rushed Mike to the hospital.

He spent a week in the hospital, and during that period, Mike received an implanted pacemaker/defibrillator. He was discharged and I got to meet him again yesterday. He could not thank me enough for being the paramedic on that call. He also reminded me that March 17th was not the first time I had met him. You see, I had also taken him to the hospital 2 years ago, when he had a stroke. During that event, TPA had ensured that he had no lasting deficits.

Days like this are the reason why we become medics. To the citizen bystanders that performed CPR on Mike that day, I say: Thanks. Mike would be dead without you. To the rest of you:

Learn CPR. You might just save a life.