If you were suddenly faced with the task of performing CPR on someone would you know when to stop?
A group of nearly two dozen people were fully aware that the odds were against their patient, but they were willing to continue to fight for his life.
At the time, Howard Snitzer, a chef, was 54 years old and living in Goodhue, Minnesota.
In 2011, Howard Snitzer was on his way to Don’s Foods when he rapidly collapsed on the sidewalk. He had suffered a cardiac arrest.
Luckily, the store clerk spotted him and called 911 while the only customer in the store started first aid.
Roy and Al Lodermeier, both first responders in the small town of Goodhue, noticed the commotion across the street and rushed to help.
“He wasn’t breathing,” Al told ABC News in 2011. “He was in trouble and that’s when we started doing CPR.”
Almost immediately locals started performing CPR on Snitzer.
While Al performed CPR, his brother Roy ran to get the town’s rescue truck and gear. It wasn’t long before neighboring towns heard of the emergency and sent some of their first responders to help.
“We just lined up and when one guy had enough, the next guy jumped in,” Roy said. “That’s how it went.”
Volunteers from neighboring towns arrived to help perform CPR.
A helicopter from the Mayo Clinic arrived 34 minutes later.
When paramedics arrived, they were amazed to find a line of roughly 20 people waiting to perform CPR on Snitzer.
“It was unbelievable,” said Mary Svoboda, a Mayo Clinic flight nurse who was on the rescue helicopter. “There were probably 20 in line, waiting their turn to do CPR. They just kept cycling through.”
Paramedics were glad to see everyone helping, but grew concerned he wouldn’t survive.
Bruce Goodman, one of the flight paramedics on the helicopter, admitted that even though “everything had gone right” before they arrived, paramedics were unable to get Snitzer out of ventricular fibrillation and that worried him.
“He was basically dead,” Svoboda told CBS News. “He was having CPR performed. He had no pulse; he was not breathing; no signs of life.”
Despite Snitzer’s grim outlook, no one gave up.
Snitzer received a total of 11 shocks to his heart along with numerous drug injections. By now his heart had stopped beating for over an hour.
“I was pretty discouraged,” Dr. Roger White, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said after receiving the last of four calls from Goodman. “We were right against the wall.”
White was not at the scene.
After one final drug injection and shock, Snitzer’s heart miraculously began beating again.
Snitzer’s heart began beating again 96 minutes after the first chest compression.
Snitzer was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic, where 10 days later he was released from the hospital.
Not only was Snitzer shocked that he survived the potentially fatal cardiac arrest, but so were his rescuers.
“I expected he’d be weak, sitting in his room,” Goodman shared with the Mayo Clinic. “But he was sitting out in a visitor’s lounge with his brother. He stood up and greeted us when we came.”
Thanks to a group of strangers and their unwillingness to give up, Snitzer survived.
“I think it’s the quality of the person,” Snitzer told ABC News. “We’re in small-town America, hard-working people … these guys would not give up.”