I still remember it vividly. A few friends of mine from college were visiting Manhattan, and we met by the World Trade Center site for lunch and sightseeing. We were going to see St. Paul’s Chapel when we saw a small crowd and two police officers on the sidewalk. As we got closer, we saw a woman on the ground gasping for air, her head resting on her husband’s lap. Her daughter, who was about my age, was crying and screaming for help. I knelt next to the woman and asked her if she needed help, but she couldn’t respond. I asked one of the police officers whether they had called an ambulance; he told me it was a few minutes away.

Throughout my medical training, I always thought there would be some panic or fear when I witnessed my first medical emergency, but I stayed calm and collected as I assessed her. I had my hand on her carotid and radial pulses and could feel faint, irregular fluttering. This was a sign of some dysrhythmia, and she needed defibrillation. I released the clasp on her bra, without exposing her, to ease her breathing. I also noticed the very upper edge of what looked like a midsternal incision, most likely from a past heart surgery. I took out my emergency pocket CPR mask and got ready.

I didn’t hesitate, and I felt confident that I would be able to do what was needed to stabilize her. Her daughter kept pleading, “Please help her, please help her.” Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I could hear the sirens from the ambulance.

Luckily EMS had gotten there in time and was able to take care of the patient. I provided the EMS with all the information I had. I felt great satisfaction knowing that without my help, without the training I received from AUA, she would have died in the middle of the street. I’m glad I was there, and I’m glad I was ready.

by Christopher Buelvas, Class of 2013