125 Stanford Stories

NO. 119
Stanford Today

Life saver

When a Palo Alto store clerk stopped breathing, a CPR-trained Stanford medical student was there

One morning in April 2016, Laura Lu left a textbook at a Palo Alto packing-and-shipping store for rebinding. The guy behind the counter looked fine.

She returned a few hours later to confusion. The man she had seen was collapsed on the floor, unmoving, and another worker was yelling, “Does anyone know CPR?”

Fortunately, Lu did. A second-year student at the Stanford School of Medicine, she dropped her backpack and quickly began performing the resuscitation technique on the man, who had experienced a sudden cardiac arrest.

“That was part of the shock,” Lu told the medical school’s Scope Blog. “He was completely fine a few hours earlier, and suddenly he was pulseless and not breathing.”

She continued to perform chest compressions on the man, taking turns with another bystander whom Lu coached in the technique. Paramedics soon arrived with heart medications and a defibrillator. By the time the man reached Stanford Hospital, his pulse had returned. He recovered and is now back at work.

“The person’s greatest chance of survival is that citizen bystander CPR,” Palo Alto Fire Chief Eric Nickel told Scope Blog. “As a fire chief, it’s great to know that we have this amazing community with a lot of extra rescuers out there, not just the ones that show up in the fire engine and ambulance.”

Said Lu: “This experience reminded me how important the information that we learn in class can actually be, because you never know when something like this will happen and how you can be of help.”

Lu’s own professional interests include regenerative medicine and prosthesis technology. She’s now a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellow, conducting research in bone fracture healing.

Read more about Lu’s actions and her recognition by the Palo Alto Fire Department.

Learn about the Arbor Free Clinic and Pacific Free Clinic, sites in Menlo Park and San Jose where Stanford medical students under faculty guidance provide high quality transitional medical care for underserved patients.

Read more experiences, thoughts and hopes of Stanford medical students in their Scope Blog series, Unplugged.