Angie Duarte ‘23: Learning a Life-Saving Skill in the Classroom

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Home > Angie Duarte ‘23: Learning a Life-Saving Skill in the Classroom

When Angie Duarte ‘23 took a health class as a freshman at Gulliver Prep, she couldn’t have predicted the extent to which what she learned would turn out to be life-saving — literally.

Last spring, she was at a communal table restaurant with her brother, Bruno, when the unthinkable happened.

“We were talking to a guy sitting at our table; he was with his wife and his two kids. Everyone was laughing and talking, and he seemed off, and I picked up on that immediately,” said Angie. “Toward the end of the meal it looked like he was kind of dancing, and he was actually having a seizure. He stood up and fell backwards, and stopped breathing completely.”

Angie learned about what seizures look like in the same health class where she learned, and got certified, in CPR. Without an ounce of hesitation, she jumped into action, realizing that she knew what to do, and that she could help.

“His wife was screaming and his kids were like, ‘what’s going on with Dad?’ That broke my heart. If I was a kid and something like that happened to one of my parents, I would want someone to react. So, I started asking him, ‘are you OK?,’ and then I tapped his shoulders and nothing happened. I asked his wife if I could do CPR and she said, ‘yes, please help.’”

Angie’s brother was hesitant, cautioning her to not do something she didn’t know how to do, but Angie was certain she did know what to do, thanks to the health class she took at Gulliver.

“My brother called 911 and he had us on speaker, just telling them what was going on. I did the 30 compressions and I kept going for another minute; it had to be like five minutes of me doing CPR. He started breathing, I sat him up, and he started throwing up. We waited for 911 to get there, and they took it from there.”

The fact that this occurred during a pandemic added another layer to just how selfless Angie acted in the moment.

“I showered the minute I got home, threw away the clothes I was wearing, and I got a COVID test and was fine. My mom was kind of freaking out. She had called us a bunch of times to pick us up and we didn’t answer because of what we were dealing with. When I told her what happened, she started crying and said, ‘that’s beautiful that you were able to help someone.’”

CPR is part of the Upper School health curriculum and all students who take health are required to get certified. The cost of certification is fully covered by Gulliver. Angie credits health class and Mrs. Suzanne Landsom ‘92 P ‘19 ‘29, Upper School Physical Education Faculty member, for how she was able to react quickly and perform life-saving CPR.

“Health class is so beneficial,” said Angie. “If that would have happened, and I hadn’t taken that class, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. Mrs. Landsom is one of the best teachers here, and I think that class is super important for everyone to take. Even teachers should take it.”

Angie contacted Mrs. Landsom right away to tell her what happened at the restaurant — how a skill she learned in an academic class had allowed her to help someone in a real-world situation.

“Angie sent me a very long text telling me what she did and how happy she was that she got certified in my class,” said Mrs. Landsom. “I responded, that is amazing and I am so proud of you, and happy you were there and able to help him. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. I was so honored that she immediately thought of me.”

Saving a stranger’s life is not something most people think they will ever be a part of. For Angie, it was instinctual.

“Anything is possible, and anything can happen. You’re just having a nice dinner, and all of a sudden someone has a seizure. When I think about it now, I’m like, how did I not freak out? I just jumped in; I was in a dress and everything, and I didn’t care. I had to help.”

 

Middle school student building.