Guarding Life

Live power lines and oncoming traffic didn’t deter a Massachusetts prison guard from saving the life of a man who’d suffered a heart attack while driving. Credit goes to a combination of bravery, fast action and CPR training.
Edward Johansen was driving along Route 140 in Norton early in the afternoon when he saw a car veer off the road and crash into a telephone pole, splitting it in half. Thinking and acting quickly, he pulled over and yanked the victim out of the wreckage. The man was turning blue and had no pulse. Johansen had to avoid downed electrical lines and, because of them, pull the man into the street, where he began CPR despite the danger from cars passing by. Another motorist called for help and in a short time, a truck driver stopped and used his vehicle to block traffic.


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It didn’t take very long for paramedics to reach the scene, but it’s likely the victim would have died or suffered brain damage if it hadn’t been for Johansen’s courage and knowledge of CPR. Emergency personnel took over and transported the man to a hospital, while Johansen went home, not knowing the man’s fate. Later that night, he was overjoyed to receive a phone call, letting him know his heroism had paid off: the guy was doing well.


Some weeks later, at an award ceremony honoring Johansen for his actions, he got to meet the man whose life he’d saved. As it happens, both are 45 years old, live in the same town and have two children. “It just made me realize how important life is,” Johansen said. “The fact that he was my age and has two children – I just saved a dad, a husband and a father.” It was a dramatic reminder that often, many lives intersect at the same moment in time. All would have experienced tragedy if not for Edward Johansen’s training in CPR and willingness to apply it, even at his own risk.


Most of the time, the sort of extraordinary bravery documented here isn’t necessary, although it’s encouraging to know it exists. What’s usually needed in the event of heart attack, of which there are 1.5 million a year in the United States, is for someone nearby to know CPR and start it quickly. Only a few hours of training stand between you  and the ability to do unimaginable good.



Tom Sirmons