On a spring day earlier this year, Laura Lu, then a second-year medical student, found herself studying non-stop for her board exams. “I had been in the library for the past week with minimal human interaction,” Lu recalled. But when her textbook began to fall apart, she knew she had to leave the land where time stood still. She made her way to a Palo Alto printing and shipping store.
As she waited in line to pick up her rebound book, she heard some commotion behind the counter. When one of the managers called out, “Does anyone know CPR?” Lu rushed over to help. An employee was lying pulseless on the ground; he had suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest, a condition in which the heart stops beating and stops pumping blood to vital organs. Lu immediately started performing resuscitations.
“I had a brief ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ moment, but then I had to remind myself to make sure I was counting the number of compressions I was doing and to keep checking his pulse,” Lu said.
When the paramedics arrived, they took over the procedure and by the time they brought the patient to Stanford Hospital, he had regained pulses. According to Palo Alto Fire Chief Eric Nickel, the patient walked out of the hospital with no permanent damage from the incident.
Last month, The City of Palo Alto recognized Lu for her life-saving actions. As Nickel said in a story I wrote on the incident:
'The person’s greatest chance of survival is that citizen bystander CPR… As a fire chief, it’s great to know that we have this amazing community with a lot of extra rescuers out there, not just the ones that show up in the fire engine and ambulance.'
Jesse Aguilar, the fire department captain on the scene, was also impressed by Lu’s skills. More from my story:
'When I walked in, I could tell that Laura was well-trained…Without her there at that time, I don’t believe the victim would have survived, because as the studies show, early, aggressive CPR is what saves lives.'
Lu said that it was the first time she performed CPR on a person. Previously, she had only trained on mannequins. 'This experience reminded me how important the information that we learn in class can actually be because you never know when something like this will happen and how you can be of help,' she said.
And, she said, her board exams went very well.
Photo of Palo Alto Fire Chief Eric Nickel, Laura Lu and Police Chief Dennis Burns, courtesy of Palo Alto Fire Department