Mario Fernandez, Melissa Brito: “I can't let this guy die here”
A customer walked into the Staten Island Mall store in New York and met Retail Sales Consultant Mario Fernandez. It was one of the worst days – and one of the luckiest – in that customer's life.
The customer, a man in his 70s, needed a software update on his phone.
As Mario stood beside him, working on the phone, the man fell forward, brushing past Mario's elbow. He hit the floor hard – face first.
Mario had been a volunteer EMT on the Volunteer Heart Ambulance on Staten Island since January. So he knew what to do.
His manager, Melissa Brito, rushed over to help. They flipped the man onto his back.
The customer's face was pale, scraped from his nose to his chin, and his eyes were wide open. Mario felt for a pulse. There was none.
"I'm certified as a CPR trainer," Mario said. "But doing my rounds as an EMT, I'd never had to perform CPR in a real situation. Of all the places, it would be in my store. This was the first time."
But his training kicked in immediately.
He yelled for another store employee to call 911. Then he told someone to go find the automated external defibrillator (AED) out in the mall.
"The man looked like there wasn't a bit of life in him," Mario said. "I thought to myself, 'I'm doing this. I can't let this guy die here.'"
As another employee held the customer's head, Mario started the first 30 chest compressions.
Melissa, also certified in CPR, took over. They alternated sets of compressions for several more minutes.
When the employee and a security guard returned with the AED, they cut open the customer's shirt and positioned pads over his chest. The machine scanned him and indicated that a shock was needed.
Everyone moved back as Mario pressed the button. The man's body seemed to lurch several inches off the floor. But he still wasn't breathing. They positioned the AED pads again for another scan. This time the machine indicated that another shock wasn't needed but to continue CPR.
They performed 2 more rounds of compressions. Then the man's stomach expanded and he gasped for breath. He was going to live.
"It was such a relief," Melissa said. "It's something that you never forget."
“It’s what we do”
By this time, fire fighters arrived and asked who had given the man the lifesaving shock.
"We told them it was Mario," Melissa said. "He stayed calm the whole time and told us that we were all going to get through this."
EMTs came soon after and took the man to an ambulance.
Later, the man's family called Mario to thank him and explained that the customer had had a similar experience 5 years ago. Fortunately, it had happened in front of a police officer's house and he was saved. Now, once again, with Mario and Melissa there to help, the man was incredibly lucky.
"This man has angels watching over him," Melissa said.