BBack in November this year, a man was nearing the finish line of a local 5km park run on a typical hot and humid KZN summer morning. The air was thick with humidity but people seemed to shrug off the discomfort as they finished the race, drenched in sweat, yet cheerful at each of their achievements.

My wife and I had just ordered our cappuccinos and we pondered letting our two boys loose when one of the restaurant staff came outside shouting for a doctor. No one responded and the man ran off, frustrated at losing precious seconds whilst everyone sat fear stricken. At that point, my wife elbowed me and reminded me that I had done several first-aid courses and often served on OHS (Occupational Health & Safety) teams within various jobs. To be honest though, my initial thought was that someone had perhaps broken a bone, or torn a muscle. Not once did I think someone was dying.

“Not once did I think someone was dying.”

As I ran to where the small crowd had gathered, I noticed a middle-aged man laying lifeless on the dirt road. No one knew what to do and hysteria quickly permeated the atmosphere as life was fading. Without hesitating, I began thrusting down on the man’s chest with my hands interlocked – 30 compressions, two breaths. It felt like several lifetimes before I heard the faint sound of sirens in the distance – I was later told that it took about 12 minutes before the first paramedic arrived.

With the experts now on the scene, resuscitation included a defibrillator machine, shots of adrenaline, and the use of an oxygen pump. Despite everyone’s combined effort, it was just over an hour before time-of-death was finally called. An air of silence instantly descended over the few people that hung around and I could hear my heart beating in my ears – a result of high-blood pressure from the stress.

According to the statistics, performing even just chest compressions increases the chances of survival however, from this fatal experience of mine, few people are able to control their senses & emotions enough to rise to the occasion. Not only was my experience an incredibly sobering one, reminding me of just how sudden life can come to an end, but it was a harsh reminder to go on a refresher first-aid course and maybe even become a volunteer in my community.

The reality is 88% of cardiac arrest victims experience this trauma at home or with family – there’s a good chance that your CPR training could possibly save the life of a family member. If there’s one selfless item you put on your bucket list of things to do, go on a first-aid course and master CPR. My hope for you is that you will never need to perform it, but should you find yourself in a dire situation, you’ll certainly be a man amongst men.