17 MARCH 2007, Page 95


Dear Mary

Q. The tennis coach at our village club was recently coaching one of his young clients. On the next court, one of the club regulars and her new middle-aged male friend were completing a strenuous game. The man suddenly collapsed and the coach, a trained first-aider, identified the symptoms of cardiac arrest and applied the necessary heart massage and mouthto-mouth. It took over half an hour for the ambulance to arrive, during which time the victim’s partner became increasingly hysterical and distressed, offering very little by way of practical support while the coach continued to alternate chest compressions with oral ventilation. The man fortunately survived, largely because of the cool head of the coach, and he can now be seen walking hand in hand with his partner in the village. Unfortunately, Mary, such is the couple’s evident desire to put the event behind them that the coach has yet to receive an acknowledgment or thank-you. It would seem to me that a gift might be appropriate to reward his quick thinking. How should they have behaved, Mary? Other members of the club feel that the couple should be encouraged to overcome their denial and embarrassment but are uncertain as to how to approach this delicate subject.

S.O., London W1 A. Your club coach certainly deserves public, to say nothing of private, recognition for his heroic act. Your brief portrait of the couple concerned, however, suggests that insensitivity and denial have contributed to the heart attack in the first place, so their own recognition and gratitude is unlikely to be forthcoming. Why not knock up a postersized tribute to the coach for display on the noticeboard of the club’s reception area. A photograph of the coach smiling benignly along with the bald facts that he has recently saved the life of a member (no names, of course) should be enough to boost his morale in the short term and perhaps to nudge the consciences of the couple involved. This small act of acknowledgement should be enough to remind the coach — if he needs reminding — that, in any case, virtue is its own reward.