You Only Live Twice

On a cold Minnesota morning, Howard Snitzer collapsed on a sidewalk. Ninety-six minutes later, he still didn't have a heartbeat. Here's how he survived.

You Only Live Twice© 2011 Reader's Digest Association
With a population of 1,176 and no traffic light, Goodhue, Minnesota, is a speck of a town, 30 miles from the closest city, Rochester. Luckily for Howard Snitzer, he found it.

The 54-year-old chef moved there late in 2010 to be with his girlfriend, Tammy Ryan, after being laid off from his restaurant job. He stayed busy fixing up their house and trying to shed some of his 220 pounds. With Ryan’s encouragement, he exercised regularly at a gym. She didn’t want him to end up like her late husband, who had died of a heart attack in 2004.

On the afternoon of January 5, 2011, Snitzer was home fresh from a workout. Still in his gym clothes, he made a salad and popped two tuna steaks into a marinade to be grilled later.

Halfway through painting a bathroom, he remembered that the gas grill was out of propane, so he made a run to the grocery store to fill the tank. It was 11 degrees outside, but the errand would take only a minute. He didn’t even bother to pull on a pair of pants over his shorts. He jumped into his green 2001 Toyota Highlander and headed for the store.

Minutes later, he died.

Al and Roy Lodermeier, owners of Roy N Al’s Auto Services in Goodhue, are closing up shop for the day. The brothers are longtime residents and have served for decades as volunteer firefighters. Neighbors are always coming by to shoot the breeze, so they are not surprised when a friend barges into their back room. This time, though, the news brings the brothers up short.

“Someone’s collapsed outside Don’s!”

The brothers rush outside. Across the street, a stranger is stretched out on the sidewalk near the entrance to Don’s Foods, next to the Coke machine. Another friend, Candace Koehn, is bent down trying to rouse him. Two thoughts cross the brothers’ minds. First: Why is this guy wearing gym shorts in freezing weather? Second: This is no mere slip on the ice. The man is not breathing.

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