San Diego Mesa Athletic Trainer helped save the life of a senior athlete

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Yuki Matsuzawa

Yuki Matsuzawa receives the Heart Hero Award.

Alysse Dodge

On Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, San Diego Mesa College athletic trainer, Yuki Matsuzawa, helped save the life of a 66-year-old athlete, who suddenly collapsed during the annual Senior Games Track Meet held at Merrill Douglas Stadium.  

Matsuzawa was not originally scheduled to work on this day. The Mesa athletic trainers typically have Sundays off, but he volunteered to work at this on-campus event. 

In an interview with The Mesa Press, Matsuzawa shared that he arrived at the track meet at 7 a.m and began to set up for the event. A few hours later, a track and field student-athlete ran over to his medical tent and informed him that someone had collapsed. He immediately ran over to the man and found him lying facedown. Matsuzawa did not see what had happened, so he asked spectators to explain what they saw. The spectators told him that the man was walking and unexpectedly collapsed. According to Matsuzawa, the man was breathing when he first arrived, but he was clearly extremely confused. 

The very first thing that Matsuzawa did was change the man’s position from facedown to faceup, in order to keep the man’s neck stable. Matsuzawa explained that this is critical for CPR or AED. At that point in time, he did not know if CPR or AED would be needed, but he made sure to stabilize the athlete’s neck in case it was. Once the man’s neck was stabilized, Matsuzawa asked the man basic questions. The man was not responding, so he immediately made sure that 911 had been called. He was informed that Sidney Garcia and Azucena Hernandez, Mesa student-athletes, had already called. Matsuzawa proceeded to pinch the man’s chest. People usually have a natural reflex to pain, but the man did not react to the pinch. Matsuzawa then quickly checked the man’s pupils and pulse and he realized that the man had stopped breathing. With the help of another senior athlete, Matsuzawa proceeded to apply the AED and perform CPR. The senior athlete performed CPR while Matsuzawa attached the AED pads to the patient. Once the AED began analyzing the heartbeat, he ordered everyone to step away from the athlete. The AED advised for a shock, so Matsuzawa applied one shock. The man still wasn’t breathing 30 seconds after the shock, so Matsuzawa performed CPR for approximately another minute until the man began breathing again. At this time, the EMS crew arrived and took over. Matsuzawa passed on any information he knew.  

Matsuzawa was originally told that the patient was going to be transferred to Scripps hospital. Later in the day, he called Scripps hospital to check on the patient. Matsuzawa shared that the patient left Merrill Douglas Stadium conscious, but sometimes things unfortunately go wrong. He wanted to make sure that the man was still doing well. Scripps hospital informed him that the patient was not at their hospital and they did not know what hospital he was at. Matsuzawa then tried to contact the patient and his wife. He did not get ahold of the patient until approximately 7 p.m. The patient had lost his memory of the day and did not remember Matsuzawa. They proceeded to talk via phone call. During the call, Matsuzawa explained what had happened and the patient reassured Matsuzawa that he was stabilized and recovering at Sharp Hospital. 

The fire rescue crew confirmed that the AED would not have been enough and CPR was required to save his life, according to Matsuzawa. His actions saved the man’s life. It is also confirmed that the man had a heart attack and he has a medical history of a heart attack in 2014, Matsuzawa said.

Matsuzawa states, “I was not panicked because I am educated and confident.” He further explains that he strongly believes that Mesa college prepared him for this incident. Every four months, he helps teach a CPR and AED orientation to Mesa students and he said that this orientation keeps his brain fresh. Additionally, Matsuzawa reviewed CPR and emergency history before attending the track meet. He shares that he reviewed the information because medical emergencies are more common when athletes are of older age. However, Matsuzawa claims that it was slightly challenging not knowing anything about the patient. He did not even know basic information, such as the patient’s name or any medical history.  

Matsuzawa states, “I am very proud of the student-athletes because they are not trained or educated on this.” He further explained that Coach Sean Ricketts and the student-athletes did an excellent job at following Mesa’s Emergency Action Plan and guiding the paramedics through the gates and onto the track. Matsuzawa shared that each stadium and event has an Emergency Action Plan. The Emergency Action Plan helps make emergencies run as smoothly and quickly as possible. 

On Sept. 26, 2022, Matsuzawa met with Garcia and Hernandez because he knows that a situation like this can be very shocking and he was worried about their mental health. He claims that they are both doing well.

Because of Matsuzawa’s actions, the man has recovered well.