Christine Buchanan: Local Hero

Written by Geoff Coleman

The Canadian Red Cross recognizes November as CPR awareness month, and on November 6, Fenelon Falls resident, Christine Buchanan took that designation to heart. Or, more specifically, to John Morrow’s heart.

At his home, and experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath, the 79-year old Morrow phoned his wife Linda, asking her to leave work and drive him to the hospital. By the time she made the 5-minute ride to their house, he had suffered a heart attack and collapsed at the end of their driveway. Like most of us, Linda and others present were not trained in emergency first aid. A neighbour on the scene had started chest compressions with the help of 911 operator, but Morrow was not responding.

By all accounts, John was dead when Christine Buchanan drove past the scene seconds later. Having had training in CPR, and seeing the severity of the situation, she parked on the shoulder and took over the resuscitation efforts.
“He was not breathing, I couldn’t find a pulse, and his skin was purple,” recalls Buchanan. However, after a few minutes of chest compressions, he drew a breath. He was not able to keep breathing but encouraged by that one breath, Ms. Buchanan continued administering CPR and minutes later he was taking shallow and laboured breaths.


John Morrow and Christine Buchanan

At that time the ambulance pulled up, and paramedics applied a defibrillator while Buchanan continued the chest compressions. In moments Morrow had vital signs and was breathing on his own when he was loaded into the ambulance.

John’s wife, Linda likes to call Ms. Buchanan his guardian angel, and without her efforts, the situation would have been very different. At the very least, even if paramedics had revived him when they arrived, there would certainly have been damage to Morrow’s brain.

Ms. Buchanan first received training through her employer about ten years ago and was recertified in each of the ensuing seven years. She followed that up on her own dime three years ago with CPR/AED and First Aid courses. Prior to this event, she had never put her training to work, but she credits the comprehensive nature of the courses she took for allowing her to act decisively and effectively.

“CPR training teaches you to react, so that’s what I did. I saw a small group of people at the end of the driveway as I approached the scene and that just looked odd. Then I saw someone’s feet…not standing. So that really caught my eye”, explained Ms. Buchanan with a wry laugh. “When I saw his skin tone I knew that something was really wrong. I asked if they needed my help, and the years of training just came to the surface.”

Events like this underscore the value of CPR training specifically and first aid training in general. If, like Linda Morrow, this incident inspires you to take a CPR course, there are a number running in this area.

Red Cross is advertising a CPR/AED (automated external defibrillation) course on April 7 and April 26, and St. John’s Ambulance offers CPR-A with AED on March 24, April 10 and 14, and May 5 and 15. CPR-A teaches CPR techniques to be used on adult casualties and is suited to workplaces/household that don’t include children. All courses are held in Lindsay. For more information visit the St. John’s Ambulance site for Lindsay and Kawartha Lakes.

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