'Pale as a piece of paper': Starbucks employee saves customer's life with Boy Scout skills

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Kurt Vaughn was 15 minutes into his morning shift at Starbucks and feeling tired and groggy when there was suddenly a commotion.

A customer had passed out on the coffee shop's patio in Palm Springs, Calif., on Aug 14. Another customer rushed inside to the front counter and asked employees if anyone knew how to perform CPR. One of them turned to Vaughn.

He wasn't certified and everything he knew came from Boy Scout training from when he was 11- to 13-years-old and some websites he found a few months ago. But little did Vaughn know, he was about to save someone's life.

"Definitely, the nerves were there," said Vaughn, who turned 20-years-old on Aug. 28. "There was someone in my arms that was very close to dying.”

The customer was Mike Furtado, a 66-year-old resident of Martinez in Northern California. He arrived in Palm Springs the previous day and was looking forward to relaxing at his Palm Canyon Resort time share.

Instead, he spent the week at Desert Regional Medical Center after going into cardiac arrest outside Starbucks, a coffee shop he's visited previously. He and Vaughn might have met in passing during one of his earlier visits, but Furtado is now convinced he'll never forget the barista who saved him from an experience that, according to experts, few ever survive. 

"He's my hero, now," Furtado said.

Vaugh said Furtado was  "as pale as a piece of paper" sitting in a chair when he rushed to help him. 

"He was not breathing, but he had an extremely faint pulse," said Vaughn.

After they placed Furtado on the ground, a customer held his legs up to maintain blood flow while another Starbucks worker, Livia Pope, held his head and chin in position to keep air moving. Meanwhile, Vaughn performed chest compressions and rescue breathing for about two minutes.

"My brain was shooting out things to do,” he said. "Things were happening and things were going well.”

Another customer dialed 911 and paramedics were on their way. Once they arrived, Vaughn placed Furtado into their care, grabbed his apron, washed up and went back to work as the incident lingered in his mind during the rest of his shift.

Paramedics spent a few more minutes taking care of Furtado before rushing him to the hospital. He was in a medically induced coma for two days and woke up without any memory of being at Starbucks.

Furtado's memory of his near-death experience remains foggy, but he's otherwise doing well. He used to be able to walk 10 miles and laments he can't walk three miles "without feeling bushed."

Even though Vaughn isn't fully trained, his efforts impressed doctors who assumed Furtado was treated by an expert, his family said. There was no sign of damage that could result from poorly performed CPR, including broken ribs or sternum separations.

"Everything ended up lining up perfectly,” said Vaughn, who plans on becoming a certified EMT and performing search and rescue.

Multiple agencies, including the American Red Cross and American Heart Association, offer brief training courses for anyone interested in learning CPR. 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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