DUNEDIN — Max Kitchener, a 16-year-old line cook at a seafood restaurant, was cutting up tuna Wednesday evening when a tourist collapsed in the street outside the business.
Luckily, Kitchener knows CPR. He learned it at Dunedin High School, where he's a junior.
Of course, practicing CPR on a plastic dummy and doing it in real life are two different things. But Kitchener kept his cool when the emergency unfolded outside Olde Bay Cafe & Dunedin Fish Market at the Dunedin Marina.
"I was portioning tuna when a guy came in and told me, 'Call 911, someone's having a heart attack,' " Kitchener recalled. "I told my boss, 'I need to go see if I can help.' "
His boss elaborated:
"Max came and asked permission," said Jane Wickman, wife of the restaurant's owner. "He said, 'Someone's having a heart attack. Is it okay if I leave the line?' We thought he was joking, but he said, 'No, I'm being serious.' "
Kitchener ran outside to help the man, who had collapsed on the pavement near the intersection of Main Street and Victoria Drive.
Another bystander, Dawn Britner-Hild, checked the fallen man's vital signs. She said he had no pulse, and he wasn't breathing.
Kitchener did what he had been taught: 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths, then 30 more compressions and two more rescue breaths. Finally, he did 15 more compressions until the man started to regain consciousness.
Britner-Hild, who's an advertising representative for the Tampa Bay Times, felt the man's pulse return. "I saw the light come back in his eyes," she said.
A small crowd had gathered to watch, keeping a respectful distance. Someone nearby was talking about getting a defibrillator when the woozy man said, "Don't shock me," according to Kitchener.
The tourist was part of a group from Massachusetts shopping at the marina, Britner-Hild learned. By the time paramedics arrived minutes later, the man was cracking jokes. "I'll do anything for attention," he told his rescuers.
The man's name wasn't available. Dunedin Fire Rescue couldn't release much information about the incident due to medical privacy laws. Division Chief Bill McElligott could only say the man didn't have a heart attack, and he was taken by ambulance to Mease Dunedin Hospital.
Kitchener, a polite and soft-spoken teen with braces, learned life-saving skills through the Academy of Architectural Design and Building Technologies, a career academy at Dunedin High. Before students can begin using the academy's tools, they're required to learn safety techniques such as first aid and CPR.
Kitchener has held an after-school job at Olde Bay Cafe since November.
As he saved the man, he didn't have time to think about what was happening until the paramedics had taken over.
"During, it was all instinct," he said. "After, my hands were shaking when I realized what I had done."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4151.