Christopher Holton started his daily stroll on a forest route close to his house a week after his doctor gave him a clean bill of health at his annual medical.
Holton, a 52-year-old multi-mile daily walker and former youth football league coach, meandered down the paved trail in Mechanicsville, Maryland, which is well-liked by bikers and runners. He usually strolls with his buddies. Last August, on that Saturday, his friends were occupied.
Holton moved swiftly up the walkway as usual, then turned around to get back to his car. He had left it parked at a nearby senior center.
Bryan Buckley, with his friend Isang Isang, was also out that morning biking the trail for the first time. Isang noticed a man stumbling before falling ahead as Buckley pedaled along the path. Holton was there.
According to Buckley, a public health researcher with prior emergency training from his time working as a lifeguard, "we sped up and leapt off our bikes."
Rubbing Holton's back was Buckley. He remained silent. His hand was trembling, and he was bleeding from the lip. Isang was advised by Buckley to dial 911.
Holton was gasping for oxygen and his eyes started to blur while they waited for the ambulance to arrive.
By keeping a finger on Holton's wrist, Buckley had already been keeping an eye on his pulse. It then started to fade. After starting his smartwatch's stopwatch feature, Buckley started applying chest compressions. He needed the timer so that he could tell the paramedics how long he'd been working when they came.
A crowd had gathered in the meantime, among them a woman who claimed to be trained in CPR. Any observers ready to assist, Buckley commanded her to train. One of the observers took over when Buckley grew weary. Several of them persisted in doing so for 20 minutes before assistance showed up.
Paramedics jumped out of the ambulance and ran to Holton's side. It was at this moment of relief that help had finally arrived, according to Buckley. I muttered,"Survive, sir! " to myself."
Holton's heart was shocked by an automatic external defibrillator, or AED, to restart it. It wasn't obvious whether it worked. He was placed inside the ambulance, and they departed.
Buckley received a call from a rescue squad officer the next week. The police informed Holton that he was still alive.
Holton was still being treated in the hospital and was making sense of what had transpired. He can still only recall leaving his home and then waking up in a hospital bed.
No obstructions in Holton's heart were discovered by hospital staff. His cardiac arrest on the trail had a mysterious origin. He stayed for a further two weeks in a nearby hospital, when a defibrillator was installed. The device can restore his heart's normal rhythm if it ever stops or beats irregularly again.
We still have no idea what happened, according to Holton. "I felt like I still had a lot of life to live, and I am really, honestly thankful that Bryan and Isang were there."
He is happy that he will live to see his 14-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son become adults.
In the first week of October, Holton returned home. The rescue squad officer who had been informing Buckley set up a video conversation between the survivor and the lifesaver in January.
When Buckley and Isang were given the Mechanicsville Volunteer Rescue Squad Life Saving Award for their efforts, the two men finally met in person in the middle of February.
Holton is currently back on his usual trail walks. He sees his cardiologist on a regular basis to monitor his heart. He attributes his speedy recuperation to his busy lifestyle.
Holton and Buckley have continued to communicate via SMS throughout March Madness and message exchanges every several weeks. Since that day on the trail, Buckley, an American Heart Association regional board member, has been insistent that everyone should learn CPR. He persuaded a number of family members to enroll in a training program. He gained a new perspective on life as a result of his experiences on the path.
I've always wanted to have a significant impact on the world, stated Buckley. However, this experience helped me become more focused and taught me how a group of individuals working together can have a significant impact in a given situation.