Harrisburg teen performs CPR on stranger at gas station

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Wednesday was supposed to be the most memorable day this week for Sam Allen. Tuesday happened first.

Sam was on his way home from baccalaureate practice at Bishop McDevitt High School on Tuesday afternoon, when the 18-year-old senior stopped for gas at the Turkey Hill Minit Market on Union Deposit Road. While filling up, Sam says he noticed a disruption inside a car at the next pump, but didn’t consider getting involved. After going inside the store to pay for gas, he returned to his car a minute later and noticed one of the people in the other car was now shouting loudly and sounding distressed. The man was now beating on the chest of a person who appeared to be unconscious in the passenger seat, suffering from an apparent medical emergency.

“The passenger, his face was blue, like really blue,” recalls Sam. “I said, ‘hey,’ do you mind if I help?”

According to Sam, his training as a certified lifeguard kicked in, and he remained calm while checking the unconscious man’s pulse and breathing. There didn’t appear to be a heartbeat.

“So I gave him thirty chest compressions, CPR,” said Sam. “That got his heart pumping again. I checked his vitals for 30 seconds, and there was no breathing, but he had the heart beat again.”

Sam said as a crowd gathered, he also made sure someone had called police and reported the medical emergency. His lifeguard training in the City of Harrisburg two years ago had prepared him to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. However, in the absence of a mask to perform the act safely, Sam says he turned the man on his side, trying another method for restoring breathing.

“And luckily, that worked. He coughed up a little bit, and started breathing,” said Sam.

Sam says he doesn’t know exactly how long it took for paramedics to arrive, but estimates he attended to the unidentified man estimated to be in his 20’s for five or six minutes. Upon arrival of help, Sam says he remained on the scene to speak with police, and went home.

“I think he was conscious when they took him away,” Allen said of the man. “I hope he’s okay. His friend kept thanking me.”

Upon arriving home, Sam says he “took a nap,” not thinking much about the life-saving actions he’d just performed, and not sharing it with anyone. Later, a friend texted him, saying that the friend’s mother had passed by the gas station at the time of the incident and saw Sam. She had asked her son to ask Sam what had happened. Sam texted back with the details.

On Wednesday, prior to Bishop McDevitt’s graduation, Sam says he got a call from his mother.

“She was sort of confused. A little ‘mom angry,’ he laughs. “She didn’t understand why I hadn’t told her about what happened the day before. I just kind of thought it was normal to do, you know. If you see someone in distress, anyone would go over and do it (help).”

As word of Sam’s quick actions spread, several fellow graduates and others approached Sam during Wednesday’s ceremony, some even calling him a ‘hero.’ That is the part he is having trouble with.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” he explains. “Real heroes are people that put their lives on the line every day for the stuff that we have, the freedoms that we have. That’s what I consider a hero, not myself.”

Sam, who credits his calmness under pressure to his time playing linebacker for the Bishop McDevitt football team, will soon head to college. He’ll attend Norwich University, a private military university in Vermont, where he plans to continue his football career and participate in Army ROTC. His goal is to graduate with honors and become an Army officer before serving his country full time.

A supervisor with the paramedic service that responded to the emergency on Tuesday could only confirm that the unidentified man assisted by Sam was taken to a local hospital with an undisclosed medical condition.

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