How 2 London sanitation workers saved a man's life

Two City of London sanitation workers were recognized Wednesday for saving a man's life after they rushed to his aid when he collapsed in his driveway after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Chris Lynch and John Sweitzer swung into action when Doug Cairns collapsed in his driveway

'Thank you for saving my life'

5 years ago
Duration 1:06
'Thank you for saving my life'

Two City of London sanitation workers were recognized Wednesday for saving a man's life.

Chris Lynch and John Sweitzer were working in a residential neighbourhood three weeks ago when Sweitzer noticed that the man he had said good morning to was now sprawled in his driveway. 

"I was on the back throwing garbage and Chris was driving," Sweitzer said. "I ran over to him and noticed that his head was bleeding so I asked if he was alright and whether he could communicate with me and there was no response." 

Chris Lynch and John Sweitzer stand in front of London city hall Wednesday for saving a man's life after he collapsed suddenly on his driveway after suffering a cardiac arrest. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

From there the two men, who've known each other since high school and once trained together as firefighters, sprung into action. 

Lynch, who is a volunteer firefighter with Middlesex Centre Fire Services, didn't hesitate to put his skills to use.

"I assumed he had had a heart attack, I've seen it before," he said. "We were at the right place at the right time. It ended up working out alright. He ended up making it."

Paramedics arrived within minutes and the man was put on a stretcher and rushed to hospital.

'They were CPR trained, what are the chances of that?'

Londoner Doug Cairns is lucky to be alive, two City of London sanitation workers saved his life after he collapsed during a cardiac arrest in his own driveway. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

While the two city workers went on with the rest of their day, Doug Cairns, the man whose life they saved, awoke inside the ambulance. 

"I'm a lot better at this time than I was three weeks ago," he said Wednesday. "I got four broken ribs, which I understand is standard procedure from CPR, but other than that I'm happy to be alive." 

Cairns had been shovelling his driveway when it happened. He said he had just been handed the lid to his garbage can by John Sweitzer when Cairns was hit with a sudden wave of nausea. 

"I thought, 'I'll just lean on this garbage can for a second and it will pass' and that's the last thing I remember," he said. "I guess I collapsed and the garbage men were at the next house when this happened." 

"To me, the most amazing thing was that they were CPR trained, what are the chances of that?"

Once Cairns had been released from hospital, he started working the phones to track down the two men who saved his life.

A supervisor in the city's sanitation department gave him Chris Lynch and John Sweitzer's names and their phone numbers and Carins called them on Tuesday night. 

'Thank you for saving my life'

John Sweitzer (left), Doug Cairns (centre), and Chris Lynch talk on the steps of London city hall Wednesday. Sweitzer and Lynch were recognized by the city for saving Cairns' life when he suffered a cardiac arrest on his driveway three weeks ago. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

What did he say?

"Thank you for saving my life, it's was as simple as that," he said. "Had they not been there and been CPR trained I don't think I'd be alive."

"Cardiac arrest kills 95 per cent of the people it strikes, so I feel pretty lucky to be in that five per cent. You have 10 minutes I'm told and had they not been there, I probably would have been lying there for that 10 minutes."

For Chris Lynch and John Sweitzer, meeting the man whose life they saved was an emotional moment. 

"It was nice knowing he made it out okay," Lynch said. "We were happy we were able to help him." 

"I felt grateful," Sweitzer said. "It was good to hear from him because last time I saw him he was out of it. It felt good to hear from him." 

The experience has left an impression on all three men, who plan to keep in touch. 

"Like they say, we go by your place every week," Cairns said, noting the experience has left a lasting impression on him more than the others. 

"It was a real wakeup call for me in terms of the importance of people being CPR aware," he said. "It's certainly motived my wife and I, when I'm feeling a little better, get CPR trained and maybe I can be of assistance to somebody as they were of assistance to me." 


Colin Butler


Colin Butler covers the environment, real estate, justice as well as urban and rural affairs for CBC News in London, Ont. He is a veteran journalist with 20 years' experience in print, radio and television in seven Canadian cities. You can email him at