Suburban Heroes: EMT course classmates help save pizza delivery driver

  • Tom Ciupka, from left, and Gabriele Noreikaite will be honored in Prospect Heights Monday night for performing CPR on a car crash victim who had a heart attack.

    Tom Ciupka, from left, and Gabriele Noreikaite will be honored in Prospect Heights Monday night for performing CPR on a car crash victim who had a heart attack. Courtesy of Gabriele Noreikaite

 
 
Updated 7/6/2019 4:43 PM

Gabriele Noreikaite and Tom Ciupka were enjoying the day at a backyard party of family friends in Prospect Heights when they were called into duty.

A car crash had just happened in front of the house, and the driver was slumped over the wheel -- unresponsive and not breathing.

 

People at the party knew Noreikaite and Ciupka were capable of helping the man; in fact, the couple met while taking an undergraduate EMT course at the University of Illinois.

They ran out front, pulled the man out of the car, and began CPR -- Noreikaite doing 30 chest compressions at a time, interspersed with Ciupka giving rescue breaths. He even had a safety mask in a backpack filled with emergency medical items he carries with him.

Paramedics arrived five minutes later and took over, reviving the heart attack victim, who today is doing well and will be discharged within days from a rehabilitation facility.

Scott Olsen, the Prospect Heights Fire Protection District battalion chief who was on call that day, said the good Samaritans set a "tide in motion for success" by getting CPR started quickly and effectively, before handing the baton to the paramedics.

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"Having those two people there, knowing what they did and how they did it, I believe got him to survive, period," Olsen said.

The two lifesavers will be honored Monday night at the Prospect Heights firehouse, 10 E. Camp McDonald Road, along with the paramedic team who responded to the call the afternoon of Sunday, June 2.

Noreikaite, 24, of Westmont, spent 1½ years as an EMT and is now in medical school, and Ciupka, 23, of Schaumburg, is taking a paramedic course now. They said they've had plenty of practice in CPR, but this was the first time they got to use it when they weren't in school or on the job.

"It was a really good case of being in the right place at the right time," Ciupka said.

Authorities said the victim -- a pizza delivery driver in his 60s -- had a heart attack and struck several vehicles parked on a residential block before his car came to rest. After someone at the party saw the crash, the person called 911 and went to find Ciupka and Noreikaite in the backyard.

Olsen said of all the emergencies first responders are called to, the ending isn't always happy. "We don't see a lot of wins," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But the successful lifesaving effort on June 2, he said, is "a win for us."

"To see a positive outcome like this, how can it not make you feel good inside?"

• Do you know any Suburban Heroes? Share your story at heroes@dailyherald.com.

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