At first, Mario Calabria thought it was a joke. The whole family was mountain biking on the Tech Trails, riding slowly on a flat part of the trail, when his father suddenly fell off his bike, hitting a tree as he slumped to the ground. Mark Calabria was a fit 56 and an active outdoorsman. "I thought he was messing with us, pretending to be someone who didn't know how to ride a bike," Mario recalls.
Then the fourth-year mechanical engineering student noticed that his father’s eyes had rolled back into his head.
As his younger sisters screamed, Mario transformed into something he had spent 224 hours training to become: an emergency medical technician. Within 30 seconds, he had his brother’s girlfriend calling 911; he found a map posted on a tree and identified exactly where on the Trails they were; he called Travis Pierce, assistant director of the Michigan Tech Emergency Medical Services (as well as Mario’s mentor and friend).
Within two minutes, he had checked his father’s pulse, found that he didn’t have one, flipped him over and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
As he compressed his father’s chest, he kept saying, “I love you, Pops. Stay with me.”
After about three minutes of CPR, Mark Calabria started breathing. “We got him back; we got him back,” Mario exclaimed to his mother, Marie, who had been helping her husband try to breathe.
But he’d spoken too soon. With a deep gasp, Mark stopped breathing.
Meanwhile, 911 dispatch had put out a call to Tech EMS. Pierce picked up three team members he saw as he was racing toward the Tech Trails, and two other teams headed for the scene as well. Within 11 minutes of the 911 call, six EMTs from Tech EMS and Michigan Tech police officers were at the head of the Homestead Loop of the Nara Tech Trails, a hilly, muddy section that was extremely difficult to reach.
Ross Michaels, a Tech student, EMS lieutenant and one of Mario’s best friends, took over CPR as EMS Director Jon Stone prepared an automated external defibrillator (AED), used to shock a heart back into a regular rhythm.
The emergency medical technicians soon realized that they were facing another life-threatening problem. Mark’s windpipe was starting to swell. He needed to be intubated, so any further swelling would not close his airway.
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