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She Saved a Life. Could You?

When Jairen’s young cousin fell in the pool, she knew exactly what to do. Do you have what it takes to be an everyday hero?

Quick quiz: Take a second to picture someone saving a life. Do you see a firefighter carrying a baby from a burning building? Or a paramedic pulling someone from a smashed car? These people are lifesavers, for sure, but what if we told you a lifesaver can also look like . . . you?

If you’re skeptical, you’re not alone. In fact, studies show that a shockingly low 2.5 percent of bystanders intervene when they witness an emergency. The rest of us just stand there waiting for the professionals to arrive.

But the truth is, you don’t need years of training or superhuman bravery to do something as heroic as saving someone’s life. All you need are some basic first aid skills, which you may already know from being a babysitter, camp counselor, lifeguard, or Scout.

Still don’t believe you have what it takes to save a life? Just ask the four teens on the following pages. All of them kept their cool and jumped into action when they saw someone in trouble. If they can do it, so can you. Read on to learn how to step up and take charge if you find yourself in an emergency.

The Lifesaver: Jairen Burns, 19, Arizona

It was a hot summer day, and Jairen had just finished showering when her younger sister burst into the bathroom frantically screaming, “Jackson’s in the pool!”

Jackson, Jairen’s 3-year-old cousin, had been playing hide-and-seek in the house with his brothers. Apparently, he had gone outside to look for a hiding place and had fallen in.

He couldn’t swim.

Jairen, who was 16 at the time and worked as a lifeguard at the local pool, sprang into action. She sprinted to the backyard and saw the boy floating facedown in the water. He wasn’t moving.

“I didn’t think. I just jumped in and grabbed him,” Jairen recalls. “There was no color to him whatsoever, and he wasn’t breathing.”

Someone called 911, but Jairen knew there wasn’t time to wait for help to arrive. She started administering CPR, alternating between chest compressions and breathing into Jackson’s mouth to force air into his lungs. At first, nothing happened—and Jairen began to worry she was too late to save her cousin.

But after a few minutes, Jackson started making gurgling noises and spitting up water. Jairen rolled him onto his side and he vomited. Not long after, the ambulance arrived.

Jackson had to spend a few days in the hospital, but he fully recovered, Jairen says.

“I was scared,” she recalls, “but I knew it was a do-or-die situation.”

The Lifesaver: Timothy “T” Sullivan, 17, Massachusetts

Timothy, who goes by “T,” was at a local amusement park on his eighth-grade field trip when his friend Haidar Faraj broke out in hives all over his body.

Haidar, who has a severe peanut allergy, realized the french fries he had just eaten must have been cooked in peanut oil. His face swelled, and he started feeling shaky and struggling to breathe.

Fortunately, Haidar had an auto-injector, which is a syringe-like device that delivers a dose of a lifesaving medicine called epinephrine to someone who’s having an allergic reaction. Haidar wasn’t able to use the injector himself, so he gave it to a classmate, but she couldn’t get it to work.

T, who had learned how to use an auto-injector at summer camp, could see that she wasn’t using the injector the right way.

“The cap wasn’t off,” T recalls. “So I said, ‘Give it to me.’ I counted to three, and I stabbed it into Haidar’s thigh.”

Within minutes, Haidar started to feel better and breathe normally. He was taken to the hospital as a precaution, but he was totally fine, thanks to T’s quick thinking.

T says he’s glad he paid attention during the first aid session at summer camp.

“Like a lot of teens, I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ll never need to use this,’” he says. “But you never know what kinds of situations you’ll find yourself in. I was so happy that I knew what to do.”

The Lifesaver: Kiara Fernandez, 15, Georgia

When Kiara was very young, her mom taught her the Heimlich maneuver and made her practice it on a teddy bear. Her mom, a former ambulance worker, wanted to make sure Kiara knew what to do if someone were choking.

That training made the difference last year when Kiara and her sister Jadah (12 at the time) were having dinner with their grandma and Jadah began choking on a piece of steak.

“We were all talking, and then Jadah suddenly got quiet,” recalls Kiara, who was 14 at the time. “She tried to take a drink, but all the juice just came back up. Her hands were flailing around. She hit me a few times, asking for help.”

Kiara’s grandma didn’t know what to do, so Kiara jumped up and got behind her sister’s chair. She made one hand into a fist, and used the other hand to thrust her fist firmly up into her sister’s abdomen.

“My heart was beating so fast. I was nervous and scared,” Kiara says. “But the food came right out, flying onto the table after just three pushes.”

The Lifesaver: Caitlin Groves, 15, Georgia

Caitlin knew her friend was having a bad day. She was crying at school, and when Caitlin checked in with her that afternoon, her friend seemed despondent and depressed. Caitlin was concerned about what she might do.

“I talked to her a bit. I thought I helped her,” Caitlin recalls.

But an hour later, the friend texted Caitlin through Snapchat that she was thinking about killing herself.

“OMG no stop. Please don’t do that,” Caitlin replied immediately.

When her friend didn’t respond to repeated messages, Caitlin’s mind raced with worry. She couldn’t stop thinking about a suicide prevention campaign from school. The campaign’s motto was “See something. Say something.”

Caitlin knew she had to say something, so she told her mom what was going on. Together, Caitlin and her mom called for help. Caitlin’s friend ended up hospitalized, and she was able to get treatment for her anxiety and depression.

“I was worried she would be mad at me, but then I realized her well-being was more important,” Caitlin says. “I’m so glad I did what I did.”

Additional Vocabulary

empathetically

tourniquet

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