The Kiss of Life – A utility worker giving mouth-to-mouth to co-worker after he contacted a high voltage wire, 1967

By RHP | Posted on: April 17, 2014 | Updated on: April 17, 2014
The Kiss of Life, 1967

The Kiss of Life, 1967

Taken in 1967 by Rocco Morabito, this photo called “The Kiss of Life” shows a utility worker named J.D. Thompson giving mouth-to-mouth to co-worker Randall G. Champion after he went unconscious following contact with a Low Voltage line. They had been performing routine maintenance when Champion brushed one of the low voltage lines at the very top of the utility pole. His safety harness prevented a fall, and Thompson, who had been ascending below him, quickly reached him and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He was unable to perform CPR given the circumstances, but continued breathing into Champion’s lungs until he felt a slight pulse, then unbuckled his harness and descended with him on his shoulder. Thompson and another worker administered CPR on the ground, and Champion was moderately revived by the time paramedics arrived, eventually making a full recovery.

What’s even more incredible is Champion not only survived this thanks to Thompson, but he lived an extra 35 years. He died in 2002 at 64 years old. Thompson is still alive today.

Rocco Morabito

Rocco Morabito

Morabito was driving on West 26th Street in July 1967 on another assignment when he saw Champion dangling from the pole. He called an ambulance and grabbed his camera.

“I passed these men working and went on to my assignment,” says Morabito. “I took eight pictures at the strike. I thought I’d go back and see if I could rind another picture.” But when Morabito gets back to the linemen, “I heard screaming. I looked up and I saw this man hanging down. Oh my God. I didn’t know what to do. I took a picture right quick. J.D. Thompson was running toward the pole. I went to my car and called an ambulance. I got back to the pole and J.D. was breathing into Champion. I backed off, way off until I hit a house and I couldn’t go any farther. I took another picture. Then I heard Thompson shouting down: He’s breathing!”

Rocco Morabito won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Spot Photography for this photograph, called “The Kiss of Life.”

Interesting stuff:

  • Today mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is unnecessary and American Heart Association (AHA) don’t recommend using it anymore. One of the big factors in the AHA’s decision to lessen the importance of ventilation in the newest resuscitation guidelines, was to make it easier and more likely for bystanders to actually perform CPR. The studies showed that many people would not perform CPR on a stranger because of the mouth-to-mouth part. By reducing the importance, they hope that more people will perform chest compressions, which by themselves can be very effective.
  • The lines above are Low Voltage (50-1000 Volts) and not High Voltage (HV). The worker is working on a transformer. In order to work on the HV part of a transformer, you need an Access Permit (name may change with countries), a document following a strict set of procedures to turn the power off. A High Voltage flash causes massive burns and a huge fireball. The clothes burn away to nothing and hair is burnt off.
  • In the industry, there is no rescue procedure for HV shock, because by the time it takes to turn the power off to safely retrieve the victim, they are already burned. Their best chance is if they are blown off the pole from the explosion and treated right then.

6 thoughts on “The Kiss of Life – A utility worker giving mouth-to-mouth to co-worker after he contacted a high voltage wire, 1967

  1. Ernest

    “Today mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is unnecessary…”???
    Well let me qoute from the 2010 guidelines which haven’t been altered in 2015: “Opening the airway (with a head tilt–chin lift or jaw thrust) followed by rescue breaths can improve oxygenation and ventilation. However, these maneuvers can be technically challenging and require interruptions of chest compressions, particularly for a lone rescuer who has not been trained. Thus, the untrained rescuer will provide Hands-Only (compression-only) CPR (ie, compressions without ventilations), and the lone rescuer who is able should open the airway and give rescue breaths with chest compressions…”
    The two quotes are not on the same track, I think.

  2. dennis cox

    Very heart flet
    And touching. This is a secured
    The bond we hold as lineman in the call of duty just like our military. Thank God i nevet experience this sisuation as my time as a lineman for 35 years. I lost my best buddy thank god i wasn’t their.

  3. Joy

    “….I went to my car and called an ambulance.” This was 1967. I guess they meant radioed? Did newspaper photographers have radios in their cars? Maybe it was a CB? Just sounds strange for 1967.

  4. TW

    For Joy’s question: they had car phones in the 50s, 60s and even earlier. I remember my aunt and uncle had one in 1970 and I thought it was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen 🙂

    1. ET

      @TW – Those were radio phones that used UHF/VHF frequencies like CB radios and HAM radios (or law enforcement, aviation, and marine radios). The radio channel of these car “phones” piped through to a nearby Bell service provider that had a receiving service that connected it with a switchbox to a land line. While the principle is similar, they were not anything like the cellular phones that we know today that Joy is trying to envision (or even the Motorola cellular car phones of the 80s and 90s). That just needs to be made clear to answer Joy’s very good question. They worked nothing like our mobile phones today. They were radio phones working in principle more like today’s satellite phones.


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