By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
A daily ritual of reading the newspaper helped a New York City man learn a skill that he would later use when saving his co-worker’s life.
On the subway on his way to work, David Martinez, 55, peruses The Washington Post on his Kindle to catch up on political news.
A story that the Post published last July about a type of bystander CPR, known as Hands-Only CPR, caught his eye. The news website posted a video alongside the article that showed how to perform Hands-Only CPR to a catchy, acapella version of the Bee Gees’ hit, Stayin’ Alive.
Martinez watched the 90-second video only one time. The video was produced by the American Heart Association in conjunction with Anthem Foundation.
Three months later, Martinez, who is a signal maintainer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and his co-workers, including Monique Brathwaite, were performing maintenance work inside a subway station located at 145th Street in New York City.
Suddenly, a co-worker yelled to call the control center to shut off the power as they were leaving the maintenance work site. Martinez immediately knew something was wrong.
David rushed toward where the maintenance work was being done. There was no sign of Brathwaite.
“I think, “Oh man, what happened,’ he said. “I run over there. I was thinking the worst had happened.’
Panic engulfed him when he saw Brathwaite lying there, smoke rising from her body. She had been hit by a powerful dose of electricity when she fell onto the third rail as she was leaving the track. Thoughts of his own kids, and her family crossed his mind.
After the power was shut off, Martinez tried to move Brathwaite with the help of a co-worker.
“I saw her right arm was really bad,” he said. “Her shoulder had smoke coming out. When I put her face up, she was completely dead. And in that moment, I remembered the article.”
His mind flashed to the Hands-Only CPR training video from the summer. He sprang into action and started to perform compressions while the Bee Gees tune played in his head. After a minute, she started to open her mouth and her eyes began to slowly open.
“Don’t close your eyes,” he yelled. “Don’t close your eyes.”
A nearby co-worker cried out: “Don’t stop, Martinez!”
As Martinez kept administering the chest compressions, he said she started convulsing and tried to open her eyes again. He performed Hands-Only CPR for about 15 minutes before emergency help arrived.
Reflecting on the incident, he said the one thing that surprised Martinez about performing CPR was the adrenaline surge.
“I get like so much energy when she opened her eyes,” he said. “I saw the results. That really surprised me when she opened her eyes for me. She was alive.”
Brathwaite who is continuing to recover from her injuries, had conventional CPR training a couple of years ago.
“Everybody should be trained in CPR,” she said. “It saved my life.”
She said she hadn’t heard of Hands-Only CPR before she suffered a cardiac arrest. Hands-Only CPR has two steps: If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, first call 911. Second, push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives.
The co-workers had only been working together for several months when the incident happened, but Brathwaite said she already had felt like they had known each other for a long time.
“David treated me as family before the accident,” she said. “He will always have a special place in my heart.”