Neither one of them was supposed to be there that night. Bowling with friends, Garrett Towe, 17, was standing in his lane when he noticed a loud commotion two lanes over. A middle-aged man had collapsed. His body was shaking, and he threw up. “Does anybody know CPR?” someone shouted.

The irony of it all was striking. Towe had not intended to be at Ralphie’s Fun Center in Glasgow, near Bowling Green, Kentucky. He and two of his friends had been planning to go to another bowling alley further away. But the mother of one of his friends was worried about the drive after her son had been in a minor car accident recently. So the teenagers changed plans and went to Ralphie's to ease her fears.

The man on the ground, Joseph Short, 54, also had no intention of bowling that night at Ralphie’s. He had stopped in for a quick chat with the co-owner, who persuaded him to roll a few games.

Towe had learned CPR from the Red Cross as part of his training to be a lifeguard at a country club. That was a few years ago. He had never done CPR in a real emergency. “I walked over. I walked fast,” he says of that night in December.

No one else jumped in.

“I was the only person there who knew what to do,” he says. “My mindset was I can do this. Once you know how to do it, you don’t really think about it.”

Towe is six feet tall and 130 pounds soaking wet. He estimated that Short was nearly three times his weight. No matter. He pushed hard and then even harder. He heard a cracking sound. “I knew the sternum was breaking and that I was going the right depth. I knew I was pushing hard enough to get the blood flowing,” he says.

Pushing for minutes, he completed four rounds. “He kind of jumped up and gasped. Then I lost the pulse,” says Garrett.

A Life of Service

Towe’s Leo club is small with a dozen members, but it is very active. Its service is innovative and wide-ranging. The Glasgow Barren Leo Club maintains a community garden and gathers art supplies for veterans engaged in art therapy. It also collects toys and clothes for the homeless and supports a shelter for victims of domestic violence. “We try to make sure if there’s a need we are available,” says Towe, who joined when a friend recommended the club. “We can see the difference we make in our community.”

The Leo club is sponsored by the Barren County Evening Lions Club.

Garrett is an excellent student. He plans to become a doctor and perhaps join Doctors Without Borders. His career aspirations are in sync with the kind of person he is, says his mother. “He’s what I call an old soul. He’s a little old man,” says Ashley Young. “He’s very sweet, very loving.”

Towe looks out in particular for youths with disabilities. At school, he routinely carried the books of a student with a disability and once kept his father waiting to drive him home from a party for another child with a disability because he didn’t want to abruptly leave.

At Ralphie’s, Towe was suddenly put in the position of saving the life of a 54-year-old stranger, someone on disability and no longer able to run an ultraheavy stamping press. Once he realized the man had no pulse, Towe put aside his fatigue and completed another two rounds of compressions. Then he was relieved by a police officer who had arrived, and the officer in turn was replaced by an emergency medical technician.

Saving A Life

Later that night, the EMT returned to the alley to tell Towe that Short had survived the cardiac arrest. The chances of surviving such an event is slim, the EMT told Towe.

“I would not have survived if not for him [Towe],” says Short. “I don’t remember it. I got my ball, put on my shoes and the next thing I know I was in the ICU.”

Short spent 18 days in the hospital. “I’m back to feeling normal. I’m doing what I want to do,” he says. He’s even bowled again.

Towe received recognition in the local newspaper, and the head of the county’s emergency medical services unit came to his high school to present him with a certificate of appreciation. “He feels like he didn’t do anything special, but he did, of course,” says Lion William Mills, a past council chair.

“I just feel great he’s alive,” says Towe.

As for Short? "I'd like to take him bowling," he says.