[LACoFD] – When Los Angeles County firefighters from Light Force 104 and Squad 111 first saw Santa Clarita teen Matthew Scalice, he was lying face-up on a pool deck, his legs dangling in the water.
“His buddy had him out of the pool (and was) doing CPR on him,” said Firefighter Paramedic Armondo Ramirez of Squad 111.
Nearly three years later, Matthew is a high school graduate. He plans to attend College of the Canyons in his first step toward a career as a nurse.
On Sept. 1, 2012, Matthew was just 15 years old and racing his friend in a pool in Santa Clarita when his heart stopped. His friend, Josh Lucia, immediately called 911 and began performing CPR. Paramedics arrived less than six minutes later.
Matt was not breathing; his heart was not beating; and he did not have a pulse.
“The scene was chaotic, with citizens and law enforcement personnel trying to help,” said Fire Captain John Rossi, who was part of Light Force 104 at the time.
Firefighters administered life-saving measures — including performing CPR for 20-30 minutes — and by the time Matthew was transported to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, he had a pulse.
“Due to HIPAA laws, that was the last we heard of Matthew’s condition,” Rossi said.
Firefighters did not know that once Matthew reached Providence Holy Cross, he underwent hypothermic treatment, where his body temperature was lowered to about 92 degrees to save brain function and prevent neurological damage. Nor did they know that he remained in a coma for 12 days.
Less than two weeks after he opened his eyes, Matthew’s nurse found him doing push-ups in his hospital room.
According to his surgeon and medical director of the Holy Cross Trauma Program, Dr. David Hanpeter, Matthew would not have made it this far had Lucia not performed CPR. Firefighters agreed.
“The difference is always if people do CPR before we get there,” Ramirez said.