Blog – A man in New Jersey who had a slim chance of survival is alive today because a college student used her first aid and CPR training to save him.
Yezli Nunez was on her way to visit a pregnant family friend on a snowy evening in December 2017. The excitement of the arrival of a newborn was overshadowed, however, when she walked into a chaotic scene.
Nunez, a 21-year-old studying to become an athletic trainer at William Paterson University, discovered a man on the ground in cardiac arrest. She saw the shocked faces of people unsure of what to do and was startled to see some even using smartphones to record the incident as it unfolded.
She did not hesitate to act.
Nunez asked onlookers to call 911 and look for an automatic external defibrillator. She checked for a pulse, determined the man was not breathing and started performing compressions.
Just as the ambulance arrived, the man started breathing. Nunez put him in recovery position, then provided her personal information to police investigators. She never learned the man's name.
"They told me I saved his life," Nunez said. "They told me it is rare, that after a certain amount of time – they mentioned 15 minutes – they usually don't make it."
Confidence to Do the Right Thing
When her grandfather suffered a stroke, Nunez decided to learn first aid and CPR. Her college major required advanced course work and certification. One of her instructors, National Safety Council First Aid Program and Development Manager Robb Rehberg, made a quick impression.
"The first thing he taught us was, 'Do not be afraid. You are here. You are learning what to do.' "
Nunez easily passed her first aid and CPR classroom skills tests but still expressed feelings of trepidation over how she would perform under pressure in the real world. The free NSC Emergency Medical Response app can take some of that anxiety out of the equation. The app provides immediate access to medical tips and first aid instructions and is designed to assist the everyday citizen until help arrives.
"You actually pray that you never use your training," Nunez said. "You think, 'What if I forget? What if I do it wrong?' It's all about believing in your skills. Be confident that you know what you're doing."
She said Rehberg emphasized the importance of following the process step by step.
"As I did it, I said everything out loud so everybody knew what I was doing," Nunez said. "To go visit somebody and then stop and save somebody's life, I was not expecting it. But taking the course gave me the knowledge and the confidence to save a life."
Nunez is a perfect example of why First Aid and CPR training is so important, Rehberg said.
"This is why I love my job," he said.
Tools to Respond
About 25% of all emergency room visits can be avoided with basic first aid and CPR, and 75% of all out-of-hospital heart attacks happen at home.
"That's why we are so excited that more and more schools are taking similar approaches, like Yezli's school, William Paterson University, and are implementing first aid training into their educational programs," said National Safety Council Chief Operating Officer Nick Smith. "These classes help equip individuals with the tools necessary to act when they need to the most."
Nunez wants others to follow in her footsteps. One day, she hopes to teach first aid and CPR in Spanish in Passaic County. Further down the road, she envisions herself returning to her homeland, the Dominican Republic, and working as an athletic trainer for las Aguilas del Cibao, one of the oldest and most storied baseball teams in the Caribbean.
"That's my team," she said.
No doubt, they would welcome another home run hitter.