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College Park HS student saved a man's life after earning CPR certification through MDUSD health pathways program
Posted 3/31/23

Sofie Patrick demonstrates CPRCPHS junior Sofie Patrick demonstrates CPR during MDUSD Adult Education's Allied Health Fair on Thursday.


By Theresa Harrington Brandt

MDUSD Public Information Officer


When College Park High School junior Sofie Patrick earned her CPR certification during her Honors Human Body Systems class last November, she had no idea she would soon use her new skills to save a man’s life.


Less than two months later, while Sofie and her family were on a beach in Hawaii during Winter Break, they saw a woman pull a man’s lifeless body out of the ocean. As a crowd gathered around him, some people began asking frantically: “Is anybody CPR certified?”

Sofie told her Dad, “I’m CPR certified!” He encouraged her to speak up, so she launched into action, stepping up to begin CPR.

“He drowned,” Sofie said, as she stoically recalled the incident recently. “He was dead. He did not have a heart beat or a pulse. So, I started doing compressions, pushing on the chest.”

In her head, she was thinking of the tune, “Baby Shark,” pushing down rhythmically with each beat of the song. Soon, the 61-year-old man began coughing up water that he had aspirated, but he was still not breathing. He regained a weak pulse by the time paramedics arrived, but no air was coming out of his nose or mouth. They and the man's wife thanked Sofie, then paramedics began using an AED to shock the his heart and transported him to the nearest hospital.


“It was a really traumatic experience for everybody involved – especially his wife, who was watching. She was the one who first pulled him out of the water,” Sofie said quietly. “Everybody was pretty scared that witnessed it.”

Sofie gave a statement to the police and left the beach with her family, not knowing the man’s fate.  


Two days later, her Dad saw a Facebook post with an update about the “Possible Drowning,” which lauded Sofie’s role in the man’s rescue. “A young girl worked on him a long time and others helped until the first response team arrived. So traumatic,” said a post by Trish Dewit. “So proud of her and praying for the man’s recovery,” wrote another. “Thanks to the young lady and those who helped her,” said one more post. “She did an awesome job,” Dewit added.


Sofie’s Dad posted that his daughter had just gotten CPR certified through her high school and he was glad she was willing and able to step in. This prompted a friend of the man she had saved to ask for her contact information. so the man's wife could update her on his progress. 

The man and his wife, who do not wish to be identified to protect their privacy, are now back in their Southern California home, but the man’s recovery has been slow. He had gone for a swim and suffered cardiac arrest, which had caused him to black out, slip into the water and drown, his wife said.


She was on the beach and saw a man face down in the water, but at first wasn't sure it was her husband. After looking for him and not seeing him, she swam out to the man and realized it was, in fact, her husband. She swam him to the shore and recalled Sofie stepping forward when others asked if anyone knew CPR. A man asked her if she felt confident. "She said 'yes,'" the man's wife recalled. "It was very brave of her to stand up and do that. She started immediately. She was strong. She was very capable and obviously had confidence in her training because she did an exceptional job. It was very dramatic."


The paramedics administered three shots from the AED along with epinephrine, which got him stabilized, she said. After an hour drive to the hospital, he was in critical care and intubated for 48 hours to help him breathe. They extubated him too early and his lungs weren’t quite ready, so complications developed, she said.


The recovery has been intense because he suffered injuries both from cardiac arrest and from drowning. He had to learn to swallow, to eat, to walk and to dress himself. He has some memory loss and doesn’t remember the trip to Hawaii. His voice is still just a whisper. He is continuing speech, occupational and physical therapy, she added.


“The injuries were extensive due to the drowning, which led to impaired function that’s still being rehabilitated,” she said. “He has to learn to write again. He could not hold any utensils or pens or anything. He still has tremors in his hands.”


But the silver lining, she said, is that he’s alive. “That is just a miracle in and of itself,” she said. And she thanks Sofie for that, calling her a “hero.”


She called Sofie after her friend got in touch with Sofie’s Dad on Facebook. “I wanted her to know that what she did was extremely important,” she said. “She really did save his life…how quickly he got CPR. I wanted her to know that she did a brave thing and I understand it would have been traumatic. I told her I felt the need to thank her and offered to give her updates, since my husband cannot speak right now.”


Despite the long road to recovery ahead, she says her husband is doing “fantastic, considering.”


“Full recovery looks promising, I would say,” she said, adding that he may have some limitations that he didn’t have before the incident.


Sofie says she's glad she received the CPR training, which her teacher Marcus Thomas was able to pay for with Career Technical Education funding. He said the District is fortunate to receive training through the Mt. Diablo Adult Education program, which he hopes to continue to offer his 11th-grade students each year. 


He is also very proud of Sofie for overcoming whatever fear she may have felt in order to save another person. "The hardest part is making the decision to help," he said. "The worst thing that can happen is that nothing changes. The best thing that happens is that you've helped them."


Sofie's ability to immediately put her training to use when another person needed it demonstrates just how valuable the CPR education was, he said. "It certainly is a justification for us doing this and spending the money," he said. 


Troy Hess, the adult education instructor who trained Sofie and about 100 of her classmates last fall along with EMT Program Director Gary Giusti, said Thomas notified him after hearing that Sofie had saved a man's life thanks to the training. 


"That was so great to hear," said Hess, who is a paramedic, retired firefighter and College Park HS alumnus. "It was wonderful. That's why we do it."


He urged everyone to get CPR training, saying, "it buys our first responders time."


"It's proven that if nothing is done, we know the outcome," he said. "But if we can get someone to do compressions, it's the same as if we were there."


He also encouraged students to take advantage of the MDUSD career pathways and Mt. Diablo Adult Education programs, saying there is a shortage of first responders right now. "We need a lot of those younger people to get in and take over as EMTs, paramedics and firefighters retire," he said. "It's an excellent job. It gives back to the community. And if you're that kind of person, it's perfect for you."


Sofie says she's not sure yet what she plans to study in college, but she has decided one thing: "I definitely want a career in the health field."


Information about MDUSD Adult Education CPR classes is here


Sofie with AEDSofie holds one of College Park High School's AED kits, which she learned how to use during her CPR training (above). A screenshot of the Facebook post regarding the "Possible Drowning" in Hawaii is below.


Screenshot of Facebook post