Meet Cliff Meidl

Cliff Meidl is a Two-Time Olympian, USA Olympic Team Flag Bearer and OxySure Spokesman. Cliff's passion for saving lives and his mission to raise awareness about the public being prepared for medical emergencies by ensuring the availability and accessibility of lay person-friendly oxygen and AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) stems from his personal experience. Cliff is a cardiac arrest survivor, and a recipient of CPR, which saved his life. Cliff's story begins in 1986, with a tragic construction accident when he was just a 20-year-old college student working his way through school as an apprentice plumber.

On a November morning, Cliff was assigned the task of operating a jackhammer on a job site. As he was working, his jackhammer made contact with three unmarked high-voltage electrical cables and he received a shock in excess of 30,000 volts of electricity—many times the charge of an electric chair—coursing through his body.

The impact of the electrical shock blew Cliff out of the ditch where he was working. Then, he slid back into the hole and made contact with the energized jackhammer for a second time which caused extensive knee damage.

The electrical shock was so forceful that it created several exit wounds leaving him burned over 15% of his body effecting his back, head, and foot where he had two toes later amputated.  The primary damage was to his knees (burning away over one-third of the internal structure of both knees compartments).

The severe electrical shock put Cliff into a cardiac arrest. Fortunately, through the fast-acting fire department and first responders were able to revive Cliff through the use of CPR, oxygen and a defibrillator. 

Today, reflecting on these events, Cliff credits the immediate availability of the AEDs and the oxygen for saving his life. Cliff's remarkable story of survival doesn't end there.  Due to the severe damage to both of Cliff’s knees, doctors recommended bilateral amputation, but his parents refused.  Cliff’s parents and doctors were able to locate plastic surgeon Dr. Malcolm Lesavoy from UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.  

Dr. Lesavoy, a pioneer in muscle grafting, decided to perform a procedure that utilized part of Cliff’s calf muscles in order to cover the burned areas on both of his knees.  Dr. Lesavoy was able to save his legs.

While Cliff was in the hospital, Dr. Lesavoy became a huge motivator for Cliff and encouraged him to fight through his adversity and to rehabilitate himself back to a normal life.  After three months, Cliff left the hospital to begin his arduous and challenging rehabilitation and recovery process.

The rehabilitation process tested the limits of Cliff’s endurance. During the process of rehabilitation he experienced much success and many failures.  Unfortunately, Cliff was never able to achieve his dream of running again.  He often attributes these struggles as the fuel that led him in a direction with the discovery of canoe paddling.  A perfect match.  It was a sport of upper body strength with a limited focus on the use of his legs.

It was during his time out on the water that Cliff felt that he could compete on an equal playing field with other athletes.

Cliff began to master his new sport and to love outrigger canoe racing.  “ I believe a lot my development as a paddler and my personal growth through my adversity came from the inspiration and motivation of my fellow teammates and coach says Cliff.”  My coach would always tell me that technique can be taught to anyone, but it’s the intensity in your eyes and the hunger for success in your heart that makes us champions. “ I was a believer.”

Before long, Meidl decided to give the sport of Olympic Sprint Kayaking a try. Through several years of hard work and his focused determination, Cliff was able to qualify for the U.S. Nationals in 1993, which planted the seed for his dream of competing in the Olympic Games.  In 1996, that dream became a reality when Cliff qualified for the USA Olympic Team in Sprint Kayaking for the Atlanta Olympic Games.

While attending the Closing Ceremonies at the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Cliff was further inspired when he saw the logo for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. "At that moment, I decided that I wanted to be there again representing the USA!"

Once again, Meidl turned to his recipe for success—hard work, dedication, and believing in himself—to accomplish this extremely difficult objective. Only about 15% of all American Olympians participate in more than one Olympic Games. Many U.S. Olympians consider just making the U.S. Olympic Team to be the most difficult objective that they face.

Meidl again made the U.S. Olympic Team in 2000. Two days before the Opening Ceremony, he learned that he had been selected by his fellow Olympians to lead them into the Sydney Stadium. To be selected as Team USA's Flag bearer is one of the greatest honors that an Olympian can attain, and Cliff was both humbled and ecstatic when he learned of his selection: "That was one of the proudest and most honored moments of my life."

A few years later leading up to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Cliff carried the Olympic Torch for the Salt Lake Olympic Torch Relay. He proudly carried the Olympic Flame in an eight-man rowing shell across the San Diego Bay between Chula Vista and Coronado, California.

Through his speaking engagements and various partnerships with charities, Cliff continues to influence, inspire and help countless people from all walks of life: corporate leaders and workers, government officials, sports organizations, children, teens, the elderly, the physically challenged, and pretty much everyone else.

After all, his remarkable story and lessons of courage, hope and determination transcend time and place. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Cliff Meidl for showing us the way through difficulty, for reminding us of the potential of the human spirit and for giving us hope in ourselves.

Cliff Meidl is an inspiration to us all, but he also believes he is very lucky and fortunate individual. He is lucky that he received the fast acting emergency resuscitation. He is lucky that oxygen was available on the scene. He is lucky to have been given another chance at life. For these reasons, Cliff is a tireless crusader for the availability of AEDs and lay person-friendly oxygen units in work places and at all other public places (basically, wherever there are people).