Don’t give up too soon!

I have often shared this incredible story in my classes of a community that just would not give up on one of their own. Because of their efforts, a man who suffered a massive heart attack is alive and well today after being kept alive for an incredible 1.5 hours (90 minutes) by passers-by who took turns to perform CPR.

Never Give Up! Unless you have reached the final “5”!

  • Too Exhausted to Continue
  • EMS Arrives, or Another Responder Takes Over
  • The Scene is Unsafe to Stay
  • An AED (Automated External Defibrillator) Needs to be Deployed
  • An Obvious Sign of Life

Howard Snitzer, 54, collapsed in the street when he suffered a potentially fatal cardiac arrest on his way to collect groceries. With a population of just 800 people and not a single traffic light in the town, his chances of survival looked bleak, but Snitzer was miraculously kept alive by dozens of good Samaritans who pumped his heart as he lay lifeless on the ground.

The chef has now made an almost full recovery and is relaxing at his home in the back-water town of Goodhue, Minnesota. He said: ‘I love them. I love those people. What can I say? It’s pretty overwhelming to be in a room full of people that are not going to walk away and give up on you.’ And I had nothing to do with it. It’s just one of those things. They’re all angles as far as I’m concerned. ‘I don’t remember going (for groceries), I don’t remember getting out of the car, and I don’t remember blacking out.’

Al Lodermeier, who owns the garage just across the street from where Snitzer collapsed, was one of the first people to start CPR.

Howard Snitzer. Alive today, because we did not give up on him.

He alerted his brother Roy who was joined by another passer-by who witnessed the moment Sitzer collapsed, Candace Koehn.

The Lodermeier brothers were both veteran first responders with more than three decades of experience on the volunteer Goodhue Fire Department and grabbed the rescue truck for its first aid kit. Koehn had also been trained in CPR. Other rescuers joined including police, volunteer fire fighters and rescue squads from the neighbouring towns of Zumbrota and Red Wing. 

The Mayo Clinic’s emergency helicopter, Mayo One, flew in from Rochester, Minnesota from almost 35 miles away.

Their teamwork kept blood flowing to Snitzer’s brain, making each rescuer a surrogate for his failing heart. 

‘I’ts remarkable. It’s a great example of people doing the right thing and having it work out,’ Bruce Wilkoff, a Cleveland Clinic heart rhythm specialist, told USA Today.

He added: ‘The brain survives, at best, five or six minutes when the blood flow stops.’

It is estimated that across the U.S. only five percent of those who who suffer cardiac arrest on the street are resuscitated and live.

Other rescuers joined including police, volunteer fire fighters and rescue squads from the neighbouring towns of Zumbrota and Red Wing.

Even cities with the best records of responding to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are said to save fewer than half of all victims or just 45 percent at best if the cardiac arrest is witnessed by a bystander.

‘I don’t think the story’s about me,’ Snitzer told USA Today. ‘It’s about the guys in Goodhue and Mayo One.

‘My end of this bargain is to honour the guys who did this for me.’

During the emergency, first responders shocked Snitzer a dozen times to jolt his heart out of its abnormal rhythm, or ventricular fibrillation. 

Paramedics Bruce Goodman and Mary Svoboda also gave Snitzer intravenous drugs to try to restore his heartbeat to normal. 

When he didn’t respond, he called experts for guidance and they agreed to try a calculated overdose of a heart drug, amiodarone, which worked.

The Mayo One helicopter crew landed and  found a line of first responders taking turns pumping on Snitzer’s chest. Al Lodermeier was at Snitzer’s head, squeezing air into a mask over his mouth using a device called an ambu bag.

Doctors feared that Snitzer might have suffered a blood clot and suffer brain damage but has now been released from hospital after 10 days and is on course to make a full recovery.

When he didn’t respond, he called experts for guidance and they agreed to try a calculated overdose of a heart drug, amiodarone, which worked.

‘The number one thing in this case was that someone recognized very quickly that he had arrested and began good, hard, fast CPR,’ said Mayo One paramedic Bruce Goodman who arrived shortly after Snitzer collapsed.

‘If you’d told me that night that this guy was going to get up and walk out of the hospital I would probably have said, ”I’ll bet my house against yours he won’t ”.’