Posted on 03/05/2011

GOODHUE, MN--A 54-year-old Goodhue man is alive and well thanks to the heroic efforts of a team of first responders who chose not to give up on the man, who was lifeless for more than an hour and a half.

It began as a quick run to the grocery store to get some last minute things for dinner, but Howard Snitzer wouldn’t even make it through the front door. He stumbled near the entrance to Don’s Foods in Goodhue and crashed onto the frozen sidewalk.

“I had a massive heart attack,” recalled Snitzer.

Don Schulte had just arrived at his store and recalled the image of Snitzer’s lifeless body.

“This guy was not looking good,” says Schulte.

Across the street from the store, brothers Al and Roy Lodermeier were getting ready to close their service station for the day. That’s when they saw Snitzer’s body laying on the sidewalk, and thought he’d just taken a tumble. The two volunteer firefighters ran over to assist and were among the first on the scene of what would become a marathon medical rescue.

“I checked for pulse and breathing and there wasn’t one. I said, ‘we’re gonna have to start CPR,’” said Al.

As Al began the 30 chest compressions and two short breaths, Roy ran into the fire station next door and grabbed the automated external defibrillator or AED.

Once they started, they didn’t stop, rotating positions while keeping the compressions going. Soon, more first responders arrived, along with ambulance crews from Zumbrota and Red Wing. Nobody was ready to give up on Snitzer despite his lack of response. It was as if the team of 20 or so was a medical bucket brigade; when one of them tired another took over.

“That’s what they described it as, exactly. That’s pretty close,” said Roy.

The 911 call dispatched Mayo One, the advanced life support helicopter from Rochester. When the team arrived, Snitzer was still unresponsive.

“No heartbeat, no breathing, no signs of life,” explained flight nurse Mary Svoboda.

They administered intravenous heart drugs and 11 jolts from a defibrillator, hoping to shock the heart into rhythm. Through 96 grueling minutes, the volunteer’s chest compressions didn’t skip a beat, hoping his heart would finally start.

“They just said, ‘you’re not dying on my watch,’ and kept going and going,” explained grocer Schulte.

Finally, came the miracle moment when after a phone consultation with a Mayo doctor, the heart began beating and Snitzer stabilized. He was immediately transported to Rochester’s Mayo.

“When you get done and the guy survives, not only survives, but with no side effects, you know? It’s just like it never happened. That makes you feel good,” said Al.

Snitzer, a very lucky man who defied incredible odds, returned to the fire hall this week to meet his team of dedicated lifesavers.

“I just pray that I can find a way to honor what you all did for me with at least living a decent life, you know. I mean, a healthy life,” said Snitzer.