October 15 was just an ordinary day at University High School until something extraordinary happened. The marching band was taking a break from a rehearsal when they all lined up for dinner. Suddenly Chris Miller, a sophomore, collapsed and started seizing.
Everyone froze. A circle formed around him. All Erika Yee, a junior, remembers hearing is, “Does anyone know CPR?”
In fact, it was very fresh in her mind. Just four months prior, Erika attended Camp Fury, a Girl Scouts firefighting camp in which she learned compression-only CPR.
Erika admits she didn’t really think about what was happening. She just sprang into action. “I raced over to him, and checked for a pulse. I didn’t feel anything. He had all the signs of cardiac arrest.” Erika started chest compressions immediately – a move that ultimately saved his life.
Janet Studley, a parent volunteer who spent time as a nurse, monitored Chris for a heartbeat, and kept his airway open while Erika continued to pump his chest. “I was doing compressions for about three minutes, but it felt like 20 minutes,” she recalls. “Paramedics got there, and took over. It wasn’t until after Chris was on his way to the hospital that everything really started to sink in.”
Chris was rushed to TMC, where he remained for the first two days of his treatment. “When people told me what happened, I was just so grateful to be alive,” he says.
To this day, doctors can’t fully explain why Chris’ heart did what it did. In the event it happens again, though, a defibrillator that was surgically inserted in his chest will shock his heart into beating again.
Chris says his outlook on life has changed since that day: “I truly appreciate every day now. It’s kept me motivated to keep doing what I’m doing.”
The experience has also been life-changing for Erika, who grew up wanting to be a dermatologist. Her aspiration now? To become a paramedic. She says, “The medics who came on scene said if Chris hadn’t gotten those chest compressions, he likely wouldn’t have survived. I am so grateful for what I learned in Girl Scouts at Camp Fury. I’m so glad that I have these life-saving skills.”
Debbie Rich, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, says what Erika did is right in alignment with who she is as a person. “I am so thankful that she had the leadership skills to take charge of the situation, and she knew what to do. She told me that the reason she could handle that was because she’s a Girl Scout, and that’s what Girl Scouts do. I think the Camp Fury experience gave her the skills, and added to her confidence, but I think she is just wired that way because she’s been a Girl Scout since she was 5 years old,” says Rich.
City of Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild recognized Erika with a copper plaque for her heroic efforts.
How did Chris’ parents thank the young woman who saved his life?
“We just hugged her, and cried, and said ‘thank you.’ We are just so glad she was there. We just can’t thank her enough. I’m really glad she is getting recognized,“ says Sarah Ann Miller, Chris’ mom.