LA GRANGE – Even though he'd been certified in CPR for a few years, 18-year-old Chris Psenicka didn't think he'd have to use those skills at such a young age.
The Lyons Township High School senior jumped into action Dec. 1 after seeing a jogger collapsed on the sidewalk. He performed chest compressions and rescue breaths on the woman until paramedics arrived.
“I knew I’d eventually have to use those skills, but not this soon,” said Psenicka, who is in the Emergency Medical Technician program at the Technology Center of DuPage. “But I’m glad I had the proper training to execute my skills.”
Psenicka was driving home from school at about 4 p.m. when he noticed a group of people crowded over a woman who was lying on a sidewalk on Brainard Avenue in La Grange. He pulled over and quickly took charge of the situation, instructing someone to call 911.
Psenicka assessed the victim, and when he didn’t detect a pulse, he began CPR. He was able to perform chest compressions until her pulse came back, stopping only when the paramedics arrived. The victim was taken to the hospital, and Psenicka said she is expected to make a full recovery. As it turns out, the woman is the wife of Psenicka’s former Cub Scout leader.
“Her husband reached out to me to tell me how thankful he was,” he said. “I was on autopilot. I knew exactly what to do. But it is different doing it on a real person than it is on a dummy. But I felt confident, and that is due to my training at TCD.”
Psenicka, who is also in the explorer program with the Broadview Fire Department, hopes to become a firefighter after graduating from LT this spring. He’s been enrolled in the Technology Center of DuPage’s EMT program since the fall, but he earned his first CPR certification a few years ago.
Greg Leston, Psenicka’s EMT instructor at the center, said in an emailed statement that his training in the program made all the difference.
“This is how it’s supposed to work: provide students the training and experience to confidently apply their knowledge and to critically think through an actual real-life situation,” he said in the statement.
Psenicka’s mother is a firefighter and paramedic, while his father, Christopher, is a retired lieutenant with the La Grange Park Fire Deptartment.
Chris Psenicka said saving lives is “in his blood,” but he remains humble.
“It felt good [to help save the woman], but I’m not a hero. I was just doing my job,” he said. “I made a save that was textbook, and I felt proud and happy to represent the Broadview Fire Department.”
Christopher Psenicka said he feels very proud of his son, and he has been receiving phone calls from his colleagues and friends to congratulate his son.
“It’s amazing to me that an 18-year-old kid can see that situation and react the way he did,” Psenicka’s father said. “It’s one thing to be trained in how to do something in a classroom and then do it in real life. For him to remain cool and calm is very impressive. I can’t give enough credit to TCD. They’ve trained him in the skills he needs, but also how to remain calm while putting those skills to use.”