Survival story of a cardiac arrest victim at work

There is a funny quote attributed to American author and humorist Mark Twain stating that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. Florida resident and cardiac arrest survivor Charles Morgan can honestly say, “Been there, done that!”

Morgan miraculously came back from the great beyond. According to medical experts, he was dead for 16-20 minutes before he began his road to complete recovery. What started out as a regular day at work as a car salesman in West Palm Beach turned into an evening full of ferocious efforts to ensure the 52-year-old grandfather’s survival.

Little did Morgan know that when he went outside of the Schumacher Volkswagen dealership for a smoke break his life would be on the line. When his boss, Rich Harward, was about to go out to join Morgan, he was told by another employee that Morgan was outside, face down, in the dirt, with his legs twitching. Another associate called 911, but Harward knew that every second counted, and he went into action. The former police officer and U.S. Marine cleared Morgan’s airway by moving his tongue out of the way and then began chest compressions. His CPR efforts continued until paramedics from Fire Station 5 arrived and took over the lifesaving task. Soon Morgan was on his way to the hospital, where doctors were so pleased to witness his progress in the days after the death-defying episode.

Morgan’s survival story has many chapters. The first was Harward’s quick response with hands-on assistance. The second was the arrival of paramedics who used some new, high-tech gadgets to keep him going through the early phases of treatment. The third – the one that is quite basic and down-to-earth – kept the patient cool. The medical term for chilling down is hypothermia therapy. By using refrigerated IV bags to lower a patient’s body temperature, brain swelling and tissue destruction were avoided.

In February, 2011, the lifesaving team and grateful survivor got together for a joyful reunion at West Palm Beach Fire Station 5. Morgan was captivated by paramedics recounting the tale of his escape through death’s door and expressed his gratitude to all.

Although Morgan has no recollection of the valiant efforts to save his life two months earlier, his actions show that he has learned an important lesson, and he is seizing the opportunity for a second chance at life. As a result of his dance with death during a massive heart attack, he has stopped smoking, started a prescribed exercise program and follows his cardiologist’s orders.


Pearl Salkin