NIU student saves life while on vacation

By Dave Heaton

Spring Break usually brings good times and fond memories, but one NIU student saved a woman’s life during her vacation.

Anastasia Criscione, an NIU junior, came back from Spring Break with more than a relaxing vacation behind her. She returned with the happiness of knowing she had made a difference. Criscione saved another person’s life.

Only seven hours after arriving at a friend’s apartment in Key West, Fla., Criscione said she came upon a woman who was face down on the apartment’s garage floor, with limbs twitching and a blue facial color. Criscione said that groceries were sprawled all over the floor, so at first, she thought that the woman was choking on some sort of food.

“I was scared to death,” Criscione said, “but when our eyes locked, I realized that I was the only one who could help her.”

Criscione said the woman lay in a narrow area between cars, so she and her companion had to pull the woman out in the open where it was possible to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Criscione said a gentleman assisted her in slightly raising the woman’s torso and then Criscione reached around to find the woman’s sternum.

Criscione said she gave the woman three quick thrusts and immediately the woman’s natural color began to return. “At this point,” Criscione said, “I could tell the woman was breathing again.” From the time that she found the woman on the floor until the moment her breathing was revived, Criscione said roughly 45 seconds elapsed.

“We just sat there looking at each other,” she said. “It was the most beautiful feeling that I had saved her life and she was now coherent.”

After the three thrusts, said Criscione, nothing came up out of her throat except some saliva. It turned out that the woman had not choked on food; she had swallowed the wrong way and was drowning on her own saliva, she said.

Criscione said she had taken a lifesaving course in high school. Criscione is a biology major with a minor in chemistry, and has had extensive anatomy courses at NIU, she added. Criscione said she works at the University Health Service and she said she plans to pursue a career in medicine.

Criscione said she made it a point to learn lifesaving techniques, and she feels everyone should because it is not difficult to learn, but the payoff can be immeasurable.