January 22 started out as a normal work day for Savanna Goodin. It ended as anything but normal. It’s not every day she saves someone’s life.
It was 10 p.m., and the 17-year-old senior at Nashoba Valley Technical High School was at the end of her shift at Walgreens Pharmacy at Plain and Chelmsford streets in Lowell, where she works through the school’s Cooperative Education program.
“I was literally 10 seconds away from clocking out,” Savanna said. “I went to lock my screen, and I heard a thud then heard a customer scream, ‘Hey!’”
A co-worker had collapsed behind the counter.
Savanna, who is a Health Assisting student at Nashoba Tech, immediately jumped into action, using lifesaving techniques she learned in school.
“When I realized he wasn’t breathing and was starting to turn blue,” she said, “something just snapped inside me and I thought, ‘I have to do this, and I have to do this now!’ I told my co-workers, ‘I have to do CPR.’”
A pharmacist rushed to the front of the store and helped by doing the breathing portion of CPR while Savanna performed chest compressions. Another employee called 911 and put the dispatcher on speakerphone.
“They were relaying information while Savanna and the pharmacist worked on him,” said Denise Quigley, the store manager.
“Every now and again, he would gasp, but I would lose the pulse right away,” Savanna said.
From her training, and also through her mother, who is a respiratory therapist, she knew she had to keep performing CPR.
The man was in the midst of a massive heart attack, and Savanna likely saved his life.
“It happened quick,” she said.
Quigley, who was not at the store when the incident occurred but watched it the next day on the store’s security footage, said it was 5-7 minutes before EMTs arrived.
When they got there, they brought the man by stretcher into an ambulance, where they continued emergency lifesaving techniques before transporting him to Lowell General Hospital. The man required surgery and is not expected to return to work for several months.
The EMTs told Savanna he would likely have died if she hadn’t jumped into action.
“She was very calm and composed,” Quigley said. “If she was feeling nervous inside, it wasn’t showing on the outside.”
Savanna transferred to Nashoba Tech from Greater Lowell Technical High School last year, and she said the training she learned at both schools got her through the stressful experience.
“Nashoba Tech retrained me in CPR and warned me about things you may see and hear when you’re performing CPR,” she said.
Nashoba Tech Health Assisting instructor Theresa Ristaino said what Savanna did under tremendous duress “is nothing short of amazing.”
“I’m really proud of the way she recognized and responded to the emergency,” Ristaino added. “Not everyone has the capacity to think clearly and react appropriately when an emergency presents itself.”
Nashoba Tech Principal Jeremy Slotnick is equally impressed with Savanna.
“Savanna is truly a hero for saving her co-worker’s life,” Slotnick said. “I am so impressed with how much our students learn in their technical programs and even more impressed that Savanna was able to take that knowledge and put it to use in a high-stress situation. She is a great example for all of us.”
When it was over and she had a chance to reflect on what had happened, Savanna realized she had done something extraordinary. But it didn’t take long for the adrenaline rush to subside.
“When I finally got home,” she said, “let’s just say I crashed.”
Quigley remains grateful that Savanna was “in the right place at the right time.”
“If this situation is any indication of her abilities,” she said, “Savanna will be an excellent health-care provider.”