Not all Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) can say they registered a “save” in the first year of their certification. Nick Cochran-Caggiano, Eagle EMS EMT and A&S ’14, is one of the few who can.
After dinner in Newton Center on Tuesday night, Cochran-Caggiano and his father went to J.P. Licks for ice cream. As Cochran-Caggiano’s father later noted, it’s a good thing they didn’t choose coffee instead. Immediately after Cochran-Caggiano had bought his ice cream, an elderly man collapsed in the store. The cause was later reported to be a serious heart attack.
“I had just had dinner with my dad, and we went to J.P. Licks in Newton Center,” Cochran-Caggiano said. “It was really a series of ironies, because I was wearing my [EMT] jacket, and then I went in and there happened to be an EMS discount. So I showed them the patch and it was $3 off or something. They handed me back my credit card and as I was picking up my ice cream I heard a little girl say, ‘What’s that, daddy?’ and heard a guy say ‘Oh s— …’ So I went down, and there was a man lying there, and the first thought in my head was ‘Oh sh—’ too. So I put down the ice cream, took off my jacket, checked for a pulse, shook him to see if he was conscious, checked for a pulse again, no pulse, so I called an ambulance and started CPR.”
After about two minutes of CPR, Newton police officers arrived with an automated electronic defibrillator. Cochran-Caggiano and the police officers continued CPR and shocked the patient with the defibrillator in hopes of restarting his heart.
After about five more minutes, Cataldo Ambulance Service paramedics arrived with a manual defibrillator and transferred the patient to the ambulance.
“At that point, apparently they shocked him once he was in the ambulance, because one of the firefighters jumped out, shook my hand, and said we saved him,” Cochran-Caggiano said. “I heard today from Cataldo that by the time he arrived at the hospital, he had a blood pressure, pulse, and spontaneous respirations.”
Although the patient’s current status is unknown, the patient arrived to the hospital alive as a result of Cochran-Caggiano’s actions. Despite the stress of the situation, Cochran-Caggiano downplayed his actions, and said he simply remembered his training under pressure.
“It was fortunate,” Cochran-Caggiano said of his being at the ice cream shop. “The mindset though, is that you can’t really do any harm here. Right now they’re dead, and they’re not getting any deader. So you work your butt off and do what you can do. It’s just, my kind of thought was, it’s what I was trained to do, so I did it. It’s a big deal in the sense that when you think about it, ‘Oh my God, it’s a life.’ But there’s probably 150 of us in Eagle EMS, and 140 of them would’ve done the same thing.”
“We are sad to hear of this unfortunate emergency, but are happy that Nick is in our family of responders,” said Chris Faherty, president of Eagle EMS and A&S ’12, in an e-mail. “He helps make our community safer, both on and off duty.”
Cochran-Caggiano, who earned his EMT certification last June, works with Eagle EMS at events like hockey and football games, and even provided coverage early this semester for “the hurricane that wasn’t.”
“Eagle EMS cannot be prouder of Nick for his swift actions,” Faherty said. “The CPR he initiated, coupled with the quick arrival of an AED, helped save the man’s life. It is a motivating and inspiring event, demonstrating the responsibilities each of us have within our community to be prepared and help those in need.”
“I never really expected anything like that to happen,” Cochran-Caggiano said. “I kind of always expected to see a car accident, pull over and provide help, but I never really expected to just be in a little shop and see it happen. It’s not that common. I was talking to the guys that were working there and they said they go through 10 or 20 robbery scenarios when they’re being trained, but nothing like this. It’s just one of those things that isn’t that common. I think that it’s wonderful, and I’m glad I was there.”
In light of his actions, Cochran-Caggiano pointed out the need for more people to be trained in CPR.
“I think that absolutely everyone should be certified in CPR,” Cochran-Caggiano said. “I think it should be part of a liberal arts education. The point of a liberal arts education is to prepare you to be the best person you can be in life. It’s just a two-hour class for CPR, it’s very cheap, and it’s something that could absolutely affect someone forever. There’s no saying that [the patient] is going to be okay, but there’s also a chance that he leaves in two days and lives another 20 years. It can’t be overstated how much people should be aware of this.”
Cochran-Caggiano’s actions have also caught the eye of several Boston College administrators.
“We join all members of the Boston College community in applauding sophomore Nick Cochran-Caggiano for his quick actions in helping to save the life of a Newton resident this week,” said University Spokesman Jack Dunn in an e-mail. “It was positive news in the midst of what has been a most difficult time for us all, and another affirmation of the wonderful work of the Eagle EMS program.”
Cochran-Caggiano pointed out that his actions were in line with a philosophy he’s held since volunteering during high school. “If you’re always ready to help someone, you’ll be ready when it’s necessary,” he said.