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Man who 'saved Santa' says more schools should teach CPR

Nathan Howard and Stephen Image copyright Nathan Howard
Image caption Nathan's new friend Stephen has now had a pacemaker fitted

A lot can happen in a minute - and for tattoo artist Nathan Howard, it was a matter of life and death.

As he and his wife, Kayla, pulled up to a supermarket on a Sunday afternoon in Lewiston, Maine, they spotted a man lying in the road, motionless, with another man shaking him.

Nathan, trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), rushed to help.

The man wasn't breathing and had no pulse so Nathan, and the other man, started giving him chest compressions.

"I couldn't believe how many people were just walking past him," Nathan told BBC News.

When the emergency services arrived, a police officer shook his hand and congratulated him for "saving this complete stranger".

Had he not acted so fast, the man would not have made it, Nathan was told.

After giving his statement to the police, he took to social media to highlight the importance of this potentially lifesaving technique.

"CPR wasn't even touched upon when I was at school - but I've since found out in some states it's being integrated into the curriculum," he said.

In fact, according to the American Heart Foundation, CPR is now a requirement for high school graduation in more than 70% of schools in the United States.

Nathan's post on Facebook was soon picked up by one of the man's relatives, Penny Foster, who thanked him and invited him to the hospital.

The following day, Nathan went to meet the man he had saved, Stephen Campbell, who, the doctor said, had "died three times" on his way to hospital.

Family gratitude

Nathan received hugs of appreciation and was relieved to hear that Stephen would make a full recovery, after having a pacemaker fitted on the same day he was admitted.

"Normally it's funny to see how people react when they see my face, neck and arms full of tattoos," Nathan said.

"I guess I don't look like the sort of person who'd jump in and carry out CPR - but these guys didn't care."

After discovering that Stephen hosts a "meet Santa" event at a high school in Poland, Maine, Nathan posted about his encounter on the social media forum Reddit.

And he couldn't resist commenting that he had used CPR three times since leaving high school, "three more times than I've used calculus".

"Simply knowing what to do might be the difference between someone going home to their family or not," he added.

By the end of the day, his post had been upvoted 52,000 times.

Saving Santa

Image copyright Gladys Campbell
Image caption Stephen visits a school each year in Poland, Maine

Many people sang his praises for "saving Santa" and shared their own lifesaving stories.

A worker for the Scottish Ambulance Service agreed with Nathan's comments, saying he was "awesome".

Another Reddit user told how a relative, a respiratory therapist, had been unable to help a man in cardiac arrest receiving poor compressions from bystanders. The man later died.

And a paramedic called Nathan's tale a "Cinderella story" because "we almost never get saves".

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However, some Reddit readers were unimpressed with Nathan's "attack" on calculus, sharing reasons why it was equally important.

And they do have a point. Abi Fox, a statistician at the Ministry of Defence in the UK, said there were hundreds, if not thousands, of ways that calculus was used in everyday life.

"It's used in the real world in computer vision for driverless cars, in video game development and by economists to predict how much profit a company will make," she told BBC news.

Nathan has since acknowledged his joke about calculus didn't go down well and said he would work on his analogies in future.

"In fact, I'm actually quite good at math," he added.

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