As 17-year-old Pasadena Food Lion cashier Cristian Moreno walked across the parking lot on his third day at work, October 6, he heard a scream.
With his supervisor, he rushed to investigate the noise. In the store’s parking lot on Mountain Road, Moreno found a man screaming in a car, and another man slumped in the driver’s seat next to him, “choking on his tongue” with his face and lips blue.
Without thinking, Moreno helped drag the man out of the car and call 911. The operator told Moreno to remove his shoe, put it under the man’s head, and perform chest compressions as well as CPR — if he was able.
Luckily, Moreno had taken two classes at Chesapeake High School, Health and Sports Medicine, that taught and certified him to do just that.
Still, he was nervous as he stooped down to potentially save this man’s life.
“It was definitely jarring — I was really, really surprised that I had to do that,” he said. “I didn’t really think that much; I just did what the 911 guy told me to do. Because I knew that would help him at that time.”
Pumping his hands on his chest and blowing into his mouth with the proper procedure, Moreno saved the man within the three minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive. The man, who had overdosed on opioids, according to Anne Arundel County Fire Department officials, “regained the red color” on his lips, and he stopped choking, Moreno said.
Moreno stepped back. His hands were shaking and he felt “physically and mentally taxed.” The EMT personnel took the man into an ambulance and, despite the exhaustion, Moreno then felt at peace.
“Right now, I feel great — I’m so happy I helped that guy,” he explained later. “I feel like I helped him for sure, because he wasn’t blue anymore, and I’m really proud I could do that.”
Captain Russ Davies, a public information officer for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, explained that having able citizens in the community saves countless lives.
“We applaud Cristian for responding as a good Samaritan to the yell for help, for calling 911, and for assisting until our arrival,” he said. “The patient was in cardiac arrest and CPR was not needed when [EMT personnel] arrived.”
The dramatic rescue highlights a crucial argument for a piece of legislation that was signed by then-Governor Martin O’Malley in 2014: Breanna’s Law.
That bill — inspired by a Perry Hall student whose life was saved by a stranger who knew CPR — made it mandatory for all students in Maryland, beginning in ninth grade, to complete “instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation that includes hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of an automated external defibrillator.” More concisely, students must know how to perform hands-on CPR and use an AED, which shocks the heart to pump blood.
Kimberly Collins, a health and physical education teacher at Chesapeake High School, said she taught Moreno his junior year how to do hands-on CPR, which is performed mostly by chest compressions.
“The more people who can react and actually do something, [rather] than stand back and watch, can actually save someone’s life,” she said. “This law is really great in that young people are learning how to do this and just becoming more comfortable if they ever get faced with it.”
Davies encourages all citizens of the community to participate in the “Friends and Family CPR” monthly training the fire department offers, as well as Narcan training hosted by the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, which spreads awareness on how to combat opioid overdoses.
Moreno, a student-athlete whose mother is also a nurse, said the medical field is a possibility for his future career, although he has not decided on his pursuit yet. Still, he took a sports medicine class in 2017 to learn more about health and medicine. The teacher of that class, Ken King, said Moreno earned his certification by taking an in-class test, which he passed easily.
King, who three years ago had another one of his students save someone’s life with CPR on the side of the road, admitted that he was not surprised about Moreno’s rescue.
“He’s a great person, and we trained him enough to where we basically told him, ‘You need to know how to do this,’” King said.
In the wake of his rescue, Moreno became an instant hero. Everyone at school knows about it, he said, and the story even traveled to Northeast High School, roughly seven miles away from Chesapeake, where a health teacher mentioned his daring rescue to her students as an example.
Moreno is simply glad he saved the life of the man, who has a wife and a daughter. Davies said the fire department is not able to follow up on the case, but “it was the belief at transport that his condition was not life-threatening and he was stable.”