Photo: Staff Photographer
A volleyball player from The Woodlands High School who nearly died from a heart attack several months ago got to meet the paramedics and other first responders who saved her life during a reunion ceremony on Tuesday at The Woodlands Fire Department’s Central Station.
Julieta Valdes, a player for the Highlander’s girls volleyball team, was “flatlined” for 23 minutes on May 3 before being saved by a combination of her family members providing CPR before Montgomery County Hospital District paramedics and firefighters from The Woodlands arrived and continued life-saving efforts until she was transported to a local hospital.
On Tuesday, Valdes said thanks in person. Something she could not do on that fateful day as she lay on the floor unconscious, clinging to life.
Reading from a prepared statement, Valdes thanked those involved with her near-death experience and said it was, “nice to finally meet you again, but conscious for a change.” Valdes, a freshman at the time, explained to those who were not aware of the circumstances surrounding the incident. She had begun to workout with her sister around 10 p.m. and was doing push-ups when she collapsed unconscious.
“From what I have heard, I was (unconscious) without a pulse for quite some time, but you never gave up on me. I have always taken graduating from high school, going to college and having a family of my own and so many other things as a given,” Valdes read as those who saved her sat silently behind her in socially distanced chairs. “While I know I am mortal, now more than ever before, I never thought about my time (to die) coming so early. I now get to make it to the ripe age of 17, and that is all because of you. I cannot thank you all enough for what you all did for me…never giving up on me and working tirelessly to get a pulse on me.”
When Valdes collapsed, her family called 911 and were given instructions by emergency dispatcher Scott McCully on how to properly do CPR.
Once paramedics arrived at Valdes’ home, they took over until she was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital-The Woodlands. She was eventually transferred to another hospital in Houston where she recovered.
Dr. Robert Dickson of the Montgomery County Hospital District began the press conference by noting that the event was intended to celebrate Valdes’ life. He said the “chain of survival” starts the minute someone calls 911 and that proper instructions on how to do CPR can increase survival odds by more than 50 percent.
“We are extraordinarily happy to see you here with us today,” Dixon said.
McCully, the veteran 911 operator who took the frantic call from Valdes’ family on that May night, was the lone person of the group of honorees Tuesday who had not met Valdes in-person.
“I am truly blessed to meet you,” McCully said.
After her speech, the varied first responder teams that helped save Valdes’ were recognized.
Included in the group were MCHD paramedics Tyler Grisham and Joe O’Neill; McCully, the MCHD 911 dispatcher; and members of The Woodlands Fire Department including Mitch Hubbard, Lt. Bill Holt and also firefighters Gary Rogers, Travis Nicholson and Reginald Jackson. All of those who helped saved Valdes received “Lifesaver Award” plaques and took commemorative photographs with Valdes.
“With this new opportunity of life I have been graciously gifted by you,” Valdes said. “I feel like I have a greater purpose and want to make an impact as well.”