Co-worker saved his life
March 18, 2021
While walking out to his car after work on Aug. 4, 2020, Mike Norton’s heart stopped – literally.
The former Culver Academies assistant athletic director and hockey coach had experienced the “widow-maker” heart attack. He had no advanced warning. No pain.
He was fortunate that he was leaving with a co-worker.
“My friend thought I had tripped,” Norton told the students and parents gathered in wellness instructor Dan Davidge’s lifeguard class last Friday during the boarding school's Fall Parents Weekend. But when he realized Norton had collapsed, he immediately started CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation).
“That was the key to it,” Norton said. “He started CPR on me. The chest compressions kept the blood flowing.”
Norton, who was the director of hockey operations at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, at the time of his heart attack, is now retired. He talked to the class just before the students showed their parents how to perform CPR. Stations were set up with electronic manikins that provide feedback on how deep each chest compression should be and the proper number of compressions per minute.
Norton told the class that he wasn’t aware what happened. He woke up eight days later in a hospital room with his wife Ann and son Rob ’12 there.
“I thought I had been in a car accident,” he said. It was that sudden. He had a big scrape on his knee that happened when he collapsed in the hockey rink’s parking lot. He found out later that his heart actually stopped four times during the episode but that the paramedics and the doctors were able to restart it each time. They placed three stents in his arteries while he was in the hospital in Cincinnati.
He was fortunate, Norton said, because his friend called 911, and started CPR immediately. It only took four minutes for the paramedics to arrive with their AED and a special chest compression machine. He was then transported to the local hospital, where a cardiologist was the doctor on call. He was then transferred to Cincinnati.
Norton said he had none of the danger signals that come before a heart attack. He had no symptoms. He wasn’t overweight, in “reasonably good shape,” and his blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were good. What the doctors believe happened is that a piece of plaque broke loose and lodged itself in a main artery.
“Timing is everything,” Norton said. His co-worker reacted "very quickly.” His chest was sore from the compressions, he added, which made him think he may have been in an accident. But a sore chest is a small price to pay.
Norton told the students knowing how to do CPR and use an AED machine could end up saving someone’s life. Approximately 1.5 million people suffer a heart attack or stroke every year, he said.
“This stuff is very, very important – especially to me.”