Undertaker helps save life at Toronto funeral home

The paradox is not lost on Toronto funeral director Aaron Battle: someone who works with the dead helping to save a life.

Battle was on duty at Cardinal Funeral Homes' Bathurst Chapel just before Christmas when someone came running out of a visitation room asking the staff to call 911 for a person in medical distress.

Battle tells NEWSTALK 1010's Moore in the Morning it is not an uncommon request. People often pass out or collapse in the emotionally-charged atmosphere of a funeral home. But when Battle and a colleague entered the visitation room, he immediately knew that this was different.

"There was a man kind of lying between rows of chair and he was clearly fully unconscious. Myself and my work colleague Debbie, she and I just sort of moved the chairs out of the way and I checked to see if he was breathing, if there was a pulse. And there wasn't."

Battle says he moved the man into a recovery position hoping his condition would improve. It didn't. Battle soon understood the man needed CPR and started chest compressions.

He says another man in the room speaking with a 911 dispatcher on speaker phone was a big help.

"He was sort of counting (compressions) off to the operator and then we would stop and check. There was really no progress, but you just sort of have to keep focus and just go, go, go."

Things looked dire as the man was whisked away by paramedics but Battle was not sure what had become of him until he got a call at home a few days later.

"One of my work colleagues called me to tell me that the family had actually just popped into the office looking for me to tell us that he was going to be just fine...The doctors had said that part of this man's survival is because an undertaker, ironically, sort of stepped up and made his heart go."

When Battle returned to work he found the family had left him a note and a Christmas basket.

"That made my Christmas," Battle said.

Then just after the holiday Battle was in the lobby of the funeral home when a man recognized the nametag on his chest

"Next, his arms were around me and I suddenly start to realize 'I know who this man is'," Battle said Friday. "It was a really great moment for him to say thank you and for me to say thank you back to him for doing well and helping my family have a great Christmas too. So we both got a nice Christmas out of this one."