train-3384786_1920I am meeting for lunch with one of the young women I mentor. Heading for a table in the corner of the tapas bar where we have met before, we are quick to survey the menus and choose a selection of dishes and drinks.

She normally arrives with a long list of topics to discuss – mostly to do with her leadership journey and her professional development ambitions – but today she is empty handed. I can tell she is preoccupied.

While we wait for our food to be prepared, she keeps gazing out of the window, and it doesn’t take long for the story to come tumbling out ….


Three weeks ago, her dad, a fit and healthy man in his late fifties, is waiting for a train at the station, not far from the family home. The morning rush hour is nearly over, but the platform is still pretty packed, and this particular train is running late.

Suddenly, without warning, he can feel huge pressure in his chest and a tight crushing sensation pierces out from his heart. He stumbles backwards and collapses onto the concrete platform, hitting his head on the corner of the dark metal framed bench behind him.

Lying in a pool of blood, there is a split second delay, and then a commotion.

“Has he had a heart attack?” asks a young man in a grey suit, addressing his question at nobody in particular. He nervously fumbles to find his mobile phone in his breast pocket, before dialling 999 to summon the emergency services.

A middle aged, red haired, woman, standing within a metre of my mentee’s dad, ignores the young man. Kneeling down by the crumpled body at her feet, she knows what she needs to do. Wordlessly, intuitively, she carefully starts to count, as she compresses the chest. Then she pinches the nose and breathes into the mouth. Back and forth. Chest and mouth. On repeat.

“There’s an ambulance in the road next to the station,” announces the young man, ending the call with the emergency operator. No longer needed on the job it had been sent out to cover, the sound of the siren can clearly be heard, edging closer.

My mentee’s dad’s chest starts to rhythmically rise and fall. He might have had a cardiac arrest in a public place, but the timing of the red haired woman’s CPR has reinvigorated spontaneous blood circulation … and quite probably saved his life.

As she puts him in the recovery position, she looks up and sees the paramedics charging along the platform, black bags and stretcher in hand, while people are parting, like the waters of the Red Sea, to let them through.

The police are not far behind, quick to take contact details from those who have witnessed what has just happened.

And then my mentee’s dad is stretchered off the platform and out of the train station, into the waiting ambulance, blue light flashing, siren blaring, where he is admitted to the nearest hospital … from where his family get the call to get there as soon as they can.


As the waitress brings our tiny plates of tapas to the table, there is a momentary pause in the telling of the story, while we make room amidst our crockery and cutlery. Our drinks also arrive.

And then …

“The thing is,” my mentee says slowly, “when the police tried to contact the red haired woman, they were unable to trace her.” She pauses a moment, clearly still in shock. “We’re beginning to wonder whether she might have been an angel.”

I smile at her and nod. “She could well have been,” I concede. “Sometimes, strangers are simply kind. Other times, they’re angels in disguise.”

I look her in the eye. “How’s your dad doing now?” I ask her.

“He’s still in hospital,” she reveals, “and on the road to recovery.”

She leans back in her chair, before continuing. “But he wouldn’t be here at all, if it hadn’t been for the red haired woman’s CPR.”


Photo via Pixabay.


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