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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Respiratory Therapy student uses CPR to save motorcyclist’s life

April 26, 2017

It was like any other school day for Yennaiv Oquita, as she headed home after her Respiratory Therapy program class last month. She had finished her math mid-term exam early, so she got to leave the Visalia campus a little ahead of her usual schedule.

With more time before she started work at a local restaurant, she decided to take a longer, prettier route home. A large semi-truck was moving slowly in front of her on the back-country road, but she was in no hurry.

Suddenly, a motorcycle cut between her and the semi and was about to make his move to pass it as well. The semi began a slow, sweeping turn left, just as the motorcyclist accelerated to pass. “Something bad is about to happen,” Yennaiv thought to herself.

At first, the motorcycle leaned left with the truck’s new direction, but it soon went into a skid that took him between the cab’s tires and the front tires of the container the truck was pulling. “He took a hard fall,” says Yennaiv.

She pulled over and rushed to the young man who was lying very still, eyes closed with much of his clothing shredded, exposing skid-burned flesh.

“I checked for a pulse and asked him his name and if he knew what day it was,” says Yennaiv. No response.

Another car had stopped and a woman, who turned out to be a nurse, rushed up to help. The nurse retrieved a BLS (Basis Life Support) kit she had in her car, and they used some clothing from Yennaiv’s car as tourniquets on both of the victim’s legs, which were bleeding profusely. “His left leg was just dangling,” says Yennaiv, “and the nurse wrapped it and put pressure on it to stop the bleeding.”

Everything went by quickly, even as time seemed to go in slow motion. “I just reacted very quickly and had immediately started chest compressions,” says Yennaiv. “It all happened in about two minutes.”

The truck driver was still sitting in his cab. “I think he was in shock,” says Yennaiv. “When he came out, I yelled at him to call 911.”

The ambulance arrived and paramedics secured the victim with a neck brace and used a strap to control the man’s bleeding leg. They quickly put him onto a gurney and raced to the hospital. Yennaiv and the nurse were told to wait for the CHP (California Highway Patrol), who would need to talk with them.

When the CHP arrived, they ask to see Yennaiv’s CPR certification and the nurse’s badge and credentials, as well. “My teacher had just handed me my CPR certification on Monday, and this happened on Thursday,” says Yennaiv. “They (CHP) told us we did a really good job.”

The next morning Yennaiv got a call from the motorcyclist’s girlfriend, Samantha. “I didn’t even know if he had made it, but she told me that he broke his right leg and his left leg had to be amputated up to the knee,” she says. “He wanted me to come to the hospital so he could see me.”

Yennaiv went to the hospital’s ICU the following morning. “He was really thankful,” she says. “I hugged him and told him I was glad I was able to do something for him. He has a two-year-old little girl, and he told me it was a wake-up call and a second chance to be there for his daughter.”

Yennaiv has since had a little time to reflect on what happened that day on that two-lane road. “I think I didn’t just help him, it also helped me to realize that saving someone is a big thing and can change someone completely.” Perhaps more than one life.

That incident reinforced Yennaiv’s commitment to a medical career. “I was a bit nervous when I first started the Respiratory Therapist program, and I wondered if this is really what I wanted to do,” she says. “After this experience, I realized that this was for me; this is my purpose in life.”

She has a new inspiration for the career she has chosen. “If God gave me the opportunity to do something like that as a student, how much more can I accomplish in life as a Registered Respiratory Therapist?”

Undoubtedly, she will demonstrate the answer to that question many times over the years to come.