Save The Date
Most couples want their first kiss to be special, like what they see in the movies. Some do get their romantic start, but for this couple, their first kiss was a matter of life or death. Max Montgomery and Andi Traynor met on Facebook after Max posted asking if anyone wanted to paddleboard train with him for the marathon Paddleboard event in New York City. Andi, who shared a few mutual friends with Max, was interested and replied to the invite.
A Cause Close To Her Heart
Andi Traynor is a single mother with two children ages 10 and 13. One of her children has autism and, a few years ago, they decided to start stand-up paddleboarding and surfing together. Andi saw this as a fun activity that would also be a confidence-boosting activity. Although she did not know Montgomery, when Andi saw his post on Facebook, she was intrigued by his positive attitude. She researched more about the event and was particularly interested in the cause.
The Paddleboard Marathon
Max was well prepared with almost a year to train until the big event. The event started over ten years ago in 2007 and is a 26-mile marathon paddle around Manhattan. The event raises money for environmental preservation and a number of non-profit autism organizations, bringing awareness to and supporting the causes closest to SEA’s core values. People come from all over the world to take part in this great challenge, one of the most premier SUP (Stand Up Paddle) events in the country.
As the SEAPaddle event helps many non-profit autism organizations, Andi was even more impressed. She wrote on her SEApaddle donation page, “This race combines two of the closest things to my heart – support for autism and autistic people and the connection to the water only paddling provides. I know firsthand about the challenges faced by people with autism and their families and am so happy to do my part to increase awareness and support.” In 2016, SEAPaddle NYC raised over $300,000 for autism and the environment.
The First Date
While most people go for dinner, the movies, or a cute picnic in the park, Max Montgomery, 56, decided to turn paddleboarding into a romantic date when first meeting Andi. On October 21, 2017, the two went to Capitola beach in California where the sun was shining and the water was calm. Perfect conditions to win the girl over, Max thought. Andi Traynor, a doctor from Palo Alto, California, was enjoying her date and the couple had a few attempts on the paddleboard. All was running smoothly until their fourth paddle session.
A Burning Sensation
Two hours in and Max, a tech content creator, was feeling good about the date. However, despite being a health nut, his body was saying otherwise. All of a sudden, he felt a burning sensation in his chest and decided to exit the water, feeling rather exhausted. Having told Andi two days before the date that he had a “crush on her,” he was too embarrassed to tell her what was going on. Little did they know at the time, a time-lapse camera on the beach was filming every move.
Boom, That Was It
Max left the water, “I kept saying just make it to the car, make it to the car,” Max said. “I put the board down, and then boom that was it.” As Andi followed behind, she was unaware of Max’s condition.”I saw him fall, and initially, I thought he tripped,” said Traynor, a medical professor at Stanford University and an anesthesiologist who works with high-risk pregnancies. “I turned him over, and I immediately realized something was very wrong.”
Max had collapsed to the ground and went into cardiac arrest. This meant he had a sudden loss of blood flow and his heart was not able to effectively pump. He didn’t have a heartbeat or pulse. “I turned him over, and saw he was unresponsive,” Traynor said. She began to call for help and asked someone to call 911. Andi later reported, “I checked for a pulse, and I didn’t feel a pulse. I thought he was dead.” This was not exactly how Max had wanted the date to go.
The First Kiss
Andi, the trained doctor, got down on her knees to administer CPR and performed mouth-to-mouth breathing on Max. She continued to do this for 7 minutes, the amount of time it took for paramedics to arrive. Although he still did not come to, this great act was not pointless. “CPR kept his brain alive so that he could be who he has always been,” Traynor said. Montgomery remained unresponsive and Andi was convinced he was dead. Their love story had ended before it even began.
Andi continued CPR to keep his blood circulating until the paramedics came and took over for her. They used a defibrillator on him three times before taking him away. Left alone with a small crowd of bystanders, Andi watched as the paramedics tried to resuscitate her date, “I watched them give him three shocks and he didn’t come back, so I thought he had just died on me,” Traynor said. She was confused and in disbelief about what had just happened.
A Sudden Realization
From blissfully paddleboarding with her new potential romantic partner, Andi had to dramatically switch into life-saving mode. As Max was taken away in the ambulance, she reported that “the gravity of what had happened in front of her eyes” finally hit her and she was in a state of shock. She immediately called one of her best friends and told her, “I finally met a really great guy and he dies on me.” Andi hoped and prayed Max would make it through.
In The Ambulance
Max Montgomery was a fit and healthy man, with no prior heart problems. Just the night before the date he had gone on a 10.4-mile run, something that was not unfamiliar to the 56-year-old. While in the ambulance, paramedics gave Max three more shots until, finally, he came around after the sixth try. One of the emergency medical technicians asked Max if he knew what had happened to him. Max responded that he thought he had a heart attack but, most importantly, he was embarrassed! He couldn’t believe this happened in front of his crush.
All On Camera
As Andi began to leave the beach distraught, a man from the nearby Britannia Arms restaurant approached her. He told Traynor that he happened to have a video camera set up on the part of the beach where all the events happened and that he captured it all. The man was Los Angeles composer Alexander Baker, who is also a professional photographer and videographer. Not only did he manage to capture everything on camera, the footage was crystal clear.
Watching It Back
As Traynor watched the video back, she felt reassured that she did everything in her power to help her date. Given her medical training and expertise, his story may have had a different ending without her. In the video, she reported that she could see herself breaking down at the point that he was taken away in the ambulance. “I thought, ‘He’s dead, people don’t live through that.’ I can’t believe this just happened. How did this just happen? I just felt sadness.”
Absolutely convinced that he was dead, Traynor searched Facebook to find Max’s relatives to offer her comfort and express condolences. She got hold of his sister’s phone number and gave her a call. As she did, she was amazed to find out that he was not only alive, but he was right next to her! Andi burst into tears when she heard the news. His sister asked, “He’s out of the procedure, do you want to talk to him?”
Under The Knife
The next day, Max underwent triple bypass surgery. This very dangerous procedure was to restore normal blood flow to an obstructed coronary artery. Max hoped he would come out the other side to see his crush again. Luckily for him, he woke up from his surgery to find a visitor awaiting at his bedside. Traynor had waited through the long hours with Montgomery’s family and friends. She had equally developed a crush on him, but the couple had never been romantic and had decided they’d take things slowly.
A Good Man
Surrounded by Max’s close friends and family, Andi was made even more sure that she had met a kindhearted, good man. Andi Traynor was a divorced mom with two kids and was cautious when it came to getting into relationships. “I saw so many amazing, lovely, kind people who loved him so much,” she said. “I’d spent some time studying what makes a healthy relationship, and one factor is somebody who has a good relationship with family and long-term friendships.”
Run For The Hills
Max, also a divorcee, was ready for a rejection. He recalled saying to Andi, “Who wants to be with a guy who had a heart attack. I won’t blame you if you run for the hills.” Andi told Max that she is not going anywhere and immediately Max fell in love. “When she said ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ I felt like my heart started to heal from the inside,” he said. “I had a great and fast recovery. I believe it was because I was madly in love.”
The “Real” First Kiss
Six days after Montgomery was discharged from the hospital, the couple decided to end their date correctly. They headed back to Capitola Beach and went stand-up paddle surfing. This time, rather than ending the date with a CPR kiss, the smitten couple had their actual first kiss. The couple is not disheartened by their first kiss, nor do that feel it was awkward. “That first kiss being CPR was obviously very magical because here I am and I’m very grateful that I’m able to experience further kisses,” Montgomery said.
Using The Video
Andi told Max about the time-lapse video. “We didn’t want to put it up on Facebook and say, ‘The craziest thing happened last weekend,'” Traynor said. “We wanted to be intentional about it.” Montgomery decided they needed to use the video to help people. The new couple realized how important it is to know CPR and decided to educate people about the benefits of CPR and try to dispel some of the myths and fears, especially that people fear they will do more harm than good.
Paying It Forward
Andi Traynor reached out to Al Gook, the lead instructor for ACLS/BLS at Stanford Health Care. She showed him the video and explained what she and Max wanted to do. With Al’s guidance and support, Montgomery and Traynor were trained and certified as AHA Basic Life Support instructors. They have started Help-A-Heart foundation, offering CPR instruction and outreach. This is part of Montgomery’s nonprofit organization, Paddle-4-Good, which offers adventures such as stand up paddling for underserved populations and people with physical and developmental needs.
It’s Not Rocket Science
“Empowerment is important,” Taylor said. Many feel as though only doctors or people with medical training can save a life. However, Andi explains that “It’s not rocket science. In 10 minutes you can learn how to do this. That’s the point — the fact that I’m a doctor isn’t what saved Max.” Every 90 seconds, someone dies somewhere in the United States from sudden cardiac arrest. The couple has shared with many that Bystander CPR can triple the chances of survival, in most instances helping the ones you love.
Taylor and Montgomery went public with their love story. Since then, they have been on the receiving end of lots of bad jokes. “You have to get someone’s consent before you kiss them,” and “Some people will do anything to get a woman’s attention,” are among some of the poor comments. But the happy couple simply chuckles and rolls their eyes. Montgomery is just happy to be alive. “It’s the craziest story of my life thus far,” he said. “I’m glad to be on the lucky side of it.”