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Citizen responder Lizanne Ganzevles: ‘Room to express emotions is comforting and helps’

25 November 2016

Lizanne Ganzevles from Harderwijk was having a friendly chat with visiting acquaintances who had come to visit one cold Saturday afternoon. They were talking about their wedding, where Lizanne would be the photographer. A nice and happy prospect. After less than half an hour, she had been through the resuscitation of a neighbour. The man died and the resuscitation made more of an impression on her than she had expected. Lizanne shares her story with Stan.

Heart rate

When my cell phone started beeping during our cosy get-together, I first gave it a disgruntled look. When I picked it up, I immediately knew everything had changed: ‘RESUSCITATION ALERT!’ It was an emergency situation in a street about 150 metres away. My heart rate immediately soared to over a hundred. ‘Stop thinking, start doing’, was my first reaction. Without putting on my coat, I ran outside and sprinted to the address mentioned as quickly as possible. The fact this looked a little strange on this cold day, didn’t bother me at all. I arrived with a pounding heart.


When I arrived, there was already a police car. I ran through the open door and found people in the living room crying and screaming, desperately looking for support. On the ground was a man with his eyes wide open. It looked like he wasn’t old at all. His face lacked any sparkle and was replaced by a dull and endless nothingness.


Someone was giving mouth-to-mouth, an officer performed chest compressions and another officer hooked up the AED. I could offer support and that felt good. The man giving mouth-to-mouth faltered, overcome with grief. I took over from him. The officer kept counting in his heavy voice. Then he gave me the command to give mouth-to-mouth.


In a reflex, my hands covered the mask on his face. I breathed in deeply, then slowly and powerfully blew in my breath of life. Out of the corner of my eye I saw his chest go up and down. I filled his lungs with my air once again. When I looked up, I saw dark onlookers stare into infinite nothingness. At a certain point I heard a computerised voice. The AED took over the situation to make an analysis of the heart rhythm. Unfortunately, there was none, so the defibrillator told us to continue.

Short questions, short answers

There was new movement in the room. Men came toward us with brisk paces. Next to me, someone in a yellow reflective jacket with blue stripes knelt down. He looked confident and in a few moves took over the situation. Short questions, short answers. Suddenly I felt redundant. I hesitantly pulled back, after a final look at the empty face.

Victim support

In the door opening was a police woman with a kind face. I almost apologised for my presence and explained what I was doing there, that I am a registered first responder. She asked me if I needed victim support. I answered in the negative, I have no idea why. After giving her my information, I stepped past her outside, toward the fresh air.


The way home was short but different. It was a strange phenomenon. In the past five, six minutes I felt estranged from my own familiar surroundings. When I returned home, the others naturally wanted to know exactly what had happened. I told them my story, but I noticed I was absent-minded. That feeling grew, especially when our guests’ conversations turned back to everyday matters.


That first night was relatively peaceful. At around one or two in the morning, however, I suddenly woke up. In my mind I saw the soulless brown eyes of that man in front of me. The movie replayed itself. And again. And again. It seemed that the silence had finally given events the room needed to land. Endless repetitions followed in my unrest. Eventually, I got out of bed to write the story down. Sleeping didn’t seem very likely anyway.


In the days following, I shared my experiences with several other people. From my work in psychiatry I know the importance of talking about intense experiences. I also called the HartveiligWonen (HeartSafeLiving) offices. I was connected to Anthon Wolf. He let me tell my story and gave me room to express my feelings. That is comforting, and it helps.

Mixed feelings

Neighbours told me a short while later that the resuscitation had been unsuccessful. It brought out feelings of guilt and shame in me. There was also the positive feeling that at least I had been able to help. The feeling was very mixed, and that wasn’t easy.

Sharp edges

After a few days I felt that the sharp edges had dulled. I thought about it less and less, and the nights were also getting more peaceful. One thing has become completely clear to me: next time, I will react in the exact same way. Every second won in resuscitation – while waiting for an ambulance – is a win. If necessary in the future, I hope to be able to contribute to saving a person’s life again.