When a customer collapsed at Market Maven, the general manager sprang into action

Eli Siegel
Eli Siegel (Courtesy of Market Maven)

Eli Siegel, the general manager of Market Maven, was sitting outside of his store in a meeting at around 3:25 p.m. on Tuesday when an employee told him that a customer had fallen inside his store. Going inside, Siegel expected to find something simple like a person who had tripped. What he found instead was a man in his early 70s who had collapsed and was unconscious on the floor of the produce department.

After calling the local branch of Hatzalah, a nonprofit volunteer organization that provides the community with emergency care, Siegel, a former volunteer firefighter and EMT, checked the man and found that he was not breathing, had no pulse and was not responsive, Siegel said. Realizing he needed to provide CPR, Siegel began chest compressions.

Rabbi Nochum Light, a regular customer at Market Maven, witnessed the incident.

“As I’m doing my shopping there, suddenly I hear a commotion, people are saying someone fell down, so we all go running to figure out what’s going on,” Light said.

He went over and saw Siegel performing CPR on the unconscious man.

“Wow,” Light, a rabbi of Chabad of Anne Arundel County in Annapolis, remembered thinking, “you don’t expect that anywhere, [such as] a kosher supermarket. I’ve never seen that before.”

Within 45 seconds of Siegel starting CPR, the man began showing signs of life, Siegel said. Hatzalah’s EMTs arrived within another few minutes, by which point the man was already sitting up and breathing on his own, with an ambulance coming soon after to take him to a hospital.

The following day, the man’s wife and daughter visited Market Maven, both to thank Siegel for his actions and to get more information about the incident, Siegel said.

“The hospital wasn’t sure if the reports from the EMS that CPR was performed on him were correct, because there’s literally no signs of any damage to his cognitive skills or motor skills or anything,” Siegel said. Apparently, the only signs of what took place are the presence of an enzyme indicating a heart attack and some bruising that was the result of the chest compressions Siegel performed to revive the man.

The man was very fortunate that the incident occurred in a public place, Siegel noted.

“God forbid he would have left the store and collapsed in his car, or collapsed on the way here,” Siegel said. “We could have been having a very different conversation right now.”

Light, however, saw more than good fortune at work. He said he later heard the man had come to Market Maven to purchase a kosher brisket.

“He went to the store to get the kosher brisket, and look what happened,” Light said. “Kosher briskets save lives. … God said, ‘listen, you want to do a mitzvah, you want to have kosher brisket, I’ll get you in the right place and nothing bad will happen to you, and it’s a sign that, yeah, keep on doing it, keep on getting kosher brisket, keep on getting kosher food, so you’ll be, in a sense, saved,’ if that makes sense.”

Siegel had previously served as a firefighter and EMT with New York’s Island Park Fire Department, he said. He joined in 2001, soon after the 9/11 attacks, and served until 2007.

While Siegel had performed CPR many times as a first responder in New York, this was the first time someone he gave CPR to regained consciousness, he said. He explained that in these situations, serious brain damage usually sets in after about five minutes, and so it is not unusual for a first responder to arrive too late to revive a person.

“It’s [a] very humbling experience, to be able to do this and save somebody’s life like that,” said Siegel, a resident of Pikesville and member of Pikesville Jewish Congregation.

Siegel views this incident as concrete proof of how important it is for individuals to receive first response training, or at least a course in CPR.

“If I was not at the store, or if somebody [had not] been in the store that would have some sort of medical knowledge of what to do in this situation, this person would not be alive today,” Siegel said. “There’s no question about it.”

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