Steamboat Springs Anya Allen, a senior this year at Steamboat Springs High School, never thought she would have to use the life-saving technique of CPR she learned in a class taught by the Steamboat Springs Fire Department.
While on a family vacation to Costa Rica with her parents and two brothers, Allen was one of two people who could perform CPR on an elderly man who had stopped breathing during their airline flight.
"It was amazing, she didn't think twice about it," Allen's mother Robin said. "She was very confident and knew it had to be done."
Anya Allen said after the 84-year-old man stopped breathing, the flight attendants made announcements for anyone with medical experience to offer their help.
A woman who was just beginning medical school volunteered.
Allen said she kept asking her brother Thomas, who was sitting next to her, if she should volunteer to help.
"Nobody really stood up," she said.
Allen told the woman who was assisting the man that she knew CPR and offered to help. Allen and the other woman worked together, administering CPR for 20 to 25 minutes until the plane made an emergency landing in Guatemala.
"It was really scary; I've never really dealt with anything like that," Allen said. She said learning CPR in the classroom but having to do it in real life was completely different.
She said the man's ribs cracked when she began the compressions, something she learned would happen, but was still emotionally difficult for her to perform.
Through the CPR class, Allen said she learned about the defibrillator patch that is placed on the body and tells a person what action to take when a person has stopped breathing. The defibrillator gave Allen and her partner CPR instructions. Allen said the explanation she received about the defibrillator in class made a huge difference when using the apparatus to try to save the man's life.
Robin Allen said she searched for a pulse on the man, which was very faint. When the plane landed and paramedics arrived, the man was taken to the local hospital. Robin Allen said the family never found out if the man survived, because they flew from Guatemala to Costa Rica for their vacation.
"It was an adventure from the start," she said.
When Anya Allen returned home, the first local Steamboat resident she saw was her physiology teacher, Lynda Stahl, who had arranged for the CPR class.
"She was just surprised," Allen said.
Stahl told Allen very few students had ever used the CPR techniques they learned in class.
Jacqui Campbell, public education coordinator for the fire department, said all high school students are taught CPR when they take physiology during their junior and senior years. She said Jeanne Power, a firefighter paramedic and lead instructor along with EMT and group leader, Jamie Neault, taught Allen and the students in her group.
"You never think it is going to affect somebody," she said. Campbell said Allen's ability to take what she learned from the class and put it to use was impressive and very courageous.
"I'm just amazed that she continued for 20 minutes," Campbell said. "That is amazing."