Letter to the Editor: Mysterious hero's family weighs in on saving a life

William Mai with Heartsaver Award bestowed on Mai for performing CPR that helped save Ron Merle’s life. Photo/Amei Mai

William Mai with Heartsaver Award bestowed on Mai for performing CPR that helped save Ron Merle’s life. Photo/Amei Mai

We read your article, "Mysterious hero helps save a life..." with interest (and a chuckle). It was actually sent to my son, William Mai, by Mary Merle - who wrote William a heartfelt thank you letter for administering CPR the night her husband, Ron, went into cardiac arrest at the Maswik Lodge at the Grand Canyon on March 8.

Incidentally, it was a "mysterious" story for us too....

After a long walk in the Grand Canyon, we'd made a plan to leave William in the lodge with my laptop while my mom, Corinna Goodman, and I fetched some food from our hotel room. We never dreamed that William, 16, who'd been deprived of the internet for about 24 hours and who was really hungry, would move from his seat in the lobby. But when we returned with the dinner, he was nowhere to be found. So we searched.

For about a half hour, we looked in both huge dining rooms, we asked a man to check the bathrooms, we Facebooked him and walked back to our room to see if he was there. While we did so, emergency vehicles raced past us, distutbing the peace and quiet of the Grand Canyon.

When we returned to the lodge and still could not locate William, I phoned the room, exasperated.

Luckily William answered, breathless, and told me that he had just performed CPR.

The story poured out in a stream of consciousness: this typical teenager had run out of battery on the laptop he was using in the Maswik Lodge lobby, and had gone back to the hotel room to retrieve the cord. En route, a woman, Mary Merle, asked him if he knew first aid. He said that he did, having taken a mandatory course as part of his physical education program last year and would help.

He described to me how he'd moved the man (Ron Merle) from a chair to the floor and had done chest compressions until EMS arrived.

In retrospect, I think he left the scene afterward because he had also been in shock (and perhaps because he knew that we would be looking for him). Also, as your article indicated, he is tall and lean. At 6'2", William has a speedy metabolism and generally eats non-stop.

Getting the run-down of the last 30 minutes seemed to be where the story ended. The next morning, we asked the front desk if we could have any news of the man who William had helped - but they said they did not know anything about it.

We later spoke to a park ranger who congratulated William and told us that we should be very proud of him - we were! - but he did not know if the man, who we now know to be Ron Merle, was okay.

I phoned Maswik Lodge about three weeks after I returned to my home in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, but the clerk said that they could not tell me anything because of HIPPA and privacy laws.

So I left it at that, but was sad that we did not know how Mr. Merle had fared. Somehow we wanted closure and were prepared for the worst, but still hoped for the best.

William went back to playing soccer eight times a week and working on his grade 11 studies. About a week later, she emailed me to say that Maswik Lodge had contacted William's grandfather in an effort to find William.

Soon thereafter, William received an impressive "ECC Heartsaver Hero award" from the American Heart Association (AHA), but more importantly, we appreciated the kind words of Ron Merle's wife, Mary, thanking him for his efforts.

When the AHA certificate arrived, William really wondered what all the fuss was about. From his perspective anyone would have done the same thing if they had been in his shoes.

In fact he is so modest and understated that when he was recently interviewed for a job at McDonald's, the manager asked if he had ever done anything above and beyond the call of duty, William couldn't think of anything.

Last year, William attended a private school where first aid and CPR was taught during P.E. class. I really think, after William's experience, that it should be taught at all schools during a student's senior year. I phoned his teacher to share the news and thank her for passing on these important skills... but thanks to social media, she had already heard through the grapevine.

I have a goal to recertify my CPR. (I encourage all your readers to do the same.)

An unexpected emergency, we now know, really can happen.

My mom keeps asking me if William has any interest in going into medicine, but he said he doesn't like the sight of blood.

Aside from anything, we are infinitely pleased that Ron Merle recovered. That is certainly the best reward.

Sincerely,

Amei Mai (Will's proud mama)

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