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Columbus' EMT Students are Saving Lives

by Joseph Alonso

The Honors Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class has been a growing sensation for Christopher Columbus students. While all students are required to perform ride-a-longs with Miami-Dade Country fire departments, not all of them get to put their practice into action.

However, for EMT students Calimo Guerrero and Felipe Aguiar, their live-saving practice in the classroom has been transformed into real-world experience.

In January, Camilo's practice in Mr. Matthew Chica's class was used to save a life. He explains:

"I was refereeing a soccer game... and I look over and see a guy faced down on the floor. I go over... [and] see hes not breathing... and i check his pulse and theres none" he says.

After checking the person's vital signs and seeing that the patient's heart had stopped, he began performing life-saving emergency care as trained for in class.

As practiced in class, Camilo began performing chest compressions (CPR) and also called for an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to restart the rhythm of the heart.

"I really dont remember anything besides being focused on... the compressions and when someone brought the AED, I was able to shock him twice, then [the paramedics] took him" he says.

Whether successful or not, the fact that an eighteen-year-old high school student could practice such life-saving care showcases the way that the EMT class has transformed.

"At first... it was just a class, but now its more of an expierence" says Mr. Chica.

This class has allowed students to effectively respond to the direst of situations, where people's lives are at stake and their actions determine whether they could live or not. Camilo shares this same sentiment:

"Because of the class, I knew how to react, ...check the guy and do the compressions. [If it wasn't for the class], I woudlve been the one calling for someone else" he says

Camilo also explains that he's yet to go on a ride-along, which adds to the impressive feats accomplished just in the classroom.

"That was my first time [helping a patient because] i havent been on a ride along. Most patients are going to be in some sort of situation so [this expierence prepares] me for that" says Camilo.

Without even going out with experienced professional firefighters and seeing the way they react to their calls, Camilo was able to respond in such a tense moment and act to save the man's life just because he sat in class, and listened to Mr. Chica.

"It was kinda cool because it was an expierence where I knew what to do only after I took this class" he says.

For Camilo and many other students in the EMT class, this experience allows them to find their passions and what they want for the future. With this class, Camilo explains:

"I want to be an EMT for a little... [but] I would want to go into sports meidicne. This class gets me the expierence I need [to] get that."

Whether their interest is in medicine, science, or sports, the EMT class offers a place where students can come and get a feel for a field in which they do not know.

For some, signing up for one class could even lead to them saving a life, just like Camilo did.

But the success of the class doesn't stop there, because, for Felipe Aguiar, February was his time to shine using the skills he'd learned in the class.

"It was my first ride-a-long and we responded to a patient who had a heart attack" says Felipe.

When the firefighters arrived, along with Felipe, they sprang into action and began performing life-saving care in the form of CPR.

But amid all the action, Felipe's station of observation was turned into a call to action.

"The [firefighter] told me, "you know what to do, go do it" and so I just [went] and started doing CPR" he says.

While many ride-a-longs are simply done in observation, Felipe was able to put his work from the EMT class into action.

"After two or three minutes of CPR, we got his pulse back and they took him to the hosptial"

Felipe, using his skills from the class, saved a life. From a flat line to a pulse, the techniques and practices learned from the class allowed Felipe to have the trust of the firefighters to make use of his skill set.

While possibly exciting for a seventeen-year-old student to say he saved a life, Felipe takes more away from this.

"Everything I learn in that class is applicable to real life... [and] can be used to save your best friend or familes life" he says.

For both Felipe and Camilo, one thing stands clear: their experiences could have only been made possible because of Columbus' EMT Class.

The skills and learning required to save a life, even with the most basic of techniques, come only from a teacher like Mr. Chica who teaches these students how to handle these situations and use their skills properly.

"How many students can say that they've preformed CPR on somebody? [It] is very very rare and the fact that we can bring a program like this here and [have] students in the public... we can actually make a difference & get the youth more involved" says Mr. Chica.

The EMT program has already affected hundreds of students in a way that may never expected by them. Even though students, year after year, continue to complement the class and program, never has it spilled over into our community.

Now with two of our students, Camilo and Felipe, putting their skills and saving the lives of two people, this program has outgrown its original meaning.

In the words of Mr. Chica, this class has become less of a class and has been molded into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Felipe Aguiar and Camilo Guerrero.

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