Town Saves Heart Attack Victim with Marathon CPR Session
March 9, 2011
More than 20 people performed CPR on a dying Minnesota man for more than an hour and a half in what is believed to be the longest successful resuscitation ever performed outside a hospital.
Howard Snitzer, 54, had just finished a workout one January evening and stopped to buy some groceries on his way home in the little town of Goodhue, Minn., where he lives. Before he could reach the store, however, he suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed on the sidewalk.
With scarcely a soul on the chilly streets of the tiny municipality (pop. 1,000) that night, and with the nearest hospital 60 kilometres away, it seemed like Snitzer had met his end.
But as luck would have it, the clerk in the grocery store saw Snitzer collapse and grabbed the phone while the store’s only customer ran outside and began CPR, touching off an hour and a half resuscitation marathon that doctors say saved the man’s life.
“What we did in the end wouldn’t have made any difference had it not been for the CPR,” said Dr. Roger White, director of the medical transport system at the Rochester Mayo Clinic, where Snitzer was eventually taken by helicopter ambulance.
“I don’t know how a more compelling message could be conveyed than this experience that, number one, CPR does work, and number two, if you do it efficiently and do it for long enough, the patient has a good chance of survival.”
Soon bystanders began to congregate on the street and offer assistance as word spread through Goodhue that a neighbour was in need.
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Al Lodermeier was just about to close up the auto repair shop he owns with his brother, Roy, across the street when someone ran in and hollered that someone had collapsed.
“I went across and that’s where I found Howard,” said Lodermeier, a volunteer firefighter trained in CPR. “A lady was kneeling next to him and said she didn’t feel a pulse. So I started doing chest compressions.”
Meanwhile, Roy Lodermeier ran to the nearby fire hall, grabbed oxygen and raised the alert.
Realizing the sidewalk wasn’t the best place to attempt to keep someone alive given the falling temperature, Al Lodermeier ordered Snitzer moved first into the grocery store, and then to the fire hall.
By the time the first ambulance arrived from the nearby town of Red Wing, a sizeable group of people had begun taking turns performing CPR. Paramedics administered intravenous drugs and also shocked Snitzer with a defibrillator in an attempt to calm his heart’s irregular rhythm, but to no avail.
About half an hour later, the Mayo Clinic’s helicopter ambulance arrived. But instead of loading Snitzer onto the helicopter right away, paramedics, on the phone to Dr. White back at the Mayo clinic, continued performing CPR at the fire hall.
This continued for another hour.
Finally, following a calculated overdose of a drug that stops heart irritability, and a final defibrillator shock — the 12th of the night — Snitzer’s pulse was restored and he was transported to hospital.
He was released 10 days later.
“Those guys who did CPR were fabulous,” Snitzer told the Star. “There’s no question that’s what kept me alive.”
Snitzer, a professional chef, said his heart attack was brought on by years of unhealthy eating and smoking.
“I’ve been a smoker since I was 11,” he said. “That was probably the number one contributor.”
Snitzer says he remains “blown away” by the efforts of everyone involved.
“We should all be trained in CPR,” he said. “I’m living proof of how hugely important it is.” In Canada, contact CPR Network of Canada (www.CPRNETWORK.ca) for all your training needs.