Location: Jackson, Mississippi
Date: February 14, 1989
On February 14, 1989, sixty-six-year-old businessman Leonard Moran of Jackson, Mississippi, was driving in rush-hour traffic to meet friends for breakfast. Twenty-seven-year-old motorist Lynn Porter was driving behind Leonard when she noticed him lean forward in his seat. Lynn figured he was reaching for a car phone, but when Leonard didn't come back up, something told her he might have suffered a heart attack. Lynn stopped and shifted into park, hopped out of her car, and started running down the middle of the street to catch Leonard's car, which was moving toward a busy intersection.
Another motorist, Mark Gallagher, was driving his SUV in the lane next to Leonard. Mark also noticed Leonard slumped over the seat. Unaware of Lynn Porter's efforts, he thought he'd better stop Leonard's car before it hit the intersection. Mark pulled in front of the car and sped thirty yards ahead, then stopped, intending to let Leonard's car rear-end his SUV rather than roll into the intersection.
Meanwhile, Lynn had caught up with Leonard's car. As she ran she grabbed hold of the door handle and flung open the driver's side door. Lynn clutched the steering wheel and tried unsuccessfully to set the emergency brake. She struggled to hang on, worried that she would slip under the car. She mustered all her strength and grabbed the steering wheel with both hands. She pulled herself into the car, threw herself on top of Leonard, and slammed the gearshift into park. She jumped out of the car screaming for help and encountered Mark, who had just caught up with her.
Mark told Lynn to run and call 911, while he tended to Leonard. He pulled Leonard out of the car and laid him in the street, then checked for a pulse and breathing and found neither. Mark had taken a CPR course fifteen years earlier and called upon his memory as he began administering compressions and rescue breathing.
Lynn ran from one house to the next looking for a phone, upset as she pounded on doors, and got no response. Lynn ran into a nearby paint store and yelled for help. Off-duty firefighter Howard Taylor happened to be working in the store and raced out to help Leonard while Lynn called 911.
Firefighters were immediately dispatched to the scene, but the nearest ambulance with advanced life support was five miles away. Howard took over administering compressions, while Mark continued performing rescue breathing. Howard was relieved when EMTs arrived and took over for him.
When paramedics arrived, Leonard was clinically dead, still without a pulse or breath. Rescuers administered a couple rounds of drugs and shocked Leonard's heart, but they had no effect. "I was very distraught after I realized he didn't have any vitals even after they hit him with those paddles," recalls Mark. "The whole time I was thinking, maybe I could have done better."
Leonard was loaded into the ambulance and transported to the hospital. Howard, concerned about Leonard's condition, called for a status report. "Man, you did it," he was told. "Wow. I did it?" asked Howard. "Yeah, you did it. You did it." Seventeen minutes after Leonard suffered his heart attack, he finally regained a heartbeat. He was stabilized and breathing on his own. Two weeks later, he was released from the hospital.
Leonard and his wife, Mary Louise, have not forgotten the people who helped save Leonard's life that day. They threw a rescuers a thank-you dinner and gave each of them a heart-shaped plaque. "Had it not been for them, I wouldn't be here," says Leonard. "They're in my thoughts almost every day. They're very special people to me."
Lynn says that the single most important thing she would emphasize about the incident is the importance of knowing CPR. "You can stand there and look at the person, or you can give him a second chance." Says Mary Louise, "What a wonderful gift to get Leonard back on Valentine's Day."