Vicki Simmons and Patrick James recently had the chance to find out, and an Oakley teenager is alive as a result.
On Oct. 27, approximately 200 yards into a four-minute run, James – a P.E. teacher at O’Hara Park Middle School in Oakley – was watching his students when he noticed something strange.
“I looked up and saw the class standing around in a circle looking at something on the ground,” said James. “I didn’t know if it was an animal or what, so I jogged on out to the field.”
What he saw was 13-year-old Ignacio Pena lying motionless, face down on the grass. As James knelt beside Ignacio, he realized the boy wasn’t breathing, and immediately turned Ignacio onto his back. After gently shaking him and repeatedly calling his name yet receiving no response, James called 911. He then told one of his students to go get Simmons, the school’s other P.E. teacher – and the rescue effort began.
“When I got out there I opened Ignacio’s airway, and at that point he gasped, and then nothing,” said Simmons. “So I began CPR, did four rounds, and when the paramedics arrived they said to continue the CPR while they prepared to take him in the ambulance. He was revived on the way to the hospital.”
O’Hara Park Principal Roger MacDonald credits Simmons and James’ quick reactions with saving Ignacio’s life.
“When I got out there, Vicki was totally ready to get to work,” said MacDonald. “It was a totally serene, quiet atmosphere. There was no fear, it was just ‘let’s get it done.’ Everyone handled themselves perfectly and professionally.”
Once the crisis had passed, the reality of the situation sunk in. “I didn’t even really think about it or get emotional at the time,” said Simmons. “But once it was over, I kind of lost it.”
And while Simmons and James agree it was definitely not a business-as-usual day on campus, they are reluctant to accept the title of “hero.”
“It was emotional; I was emotional,” said James. “But I just did what the parents of Oakley expect me to do. We just did what we needed to do.”
Oakley Superintendent Rick Rogers sees it differently. “Despite being confronted with one of the most frightening experiences that any school employee could be faced with,” said Rogers, “their quick response and decisive actions saved not only one of our students; they saved a brother and a son. We are so proud of them.”
By all accounts, Ignacio is a top athlete with no previous health problems. What caused him to collapse remains a mystery. But at Press time, he was recovering in the hospital, eating and drinking on his own and beginning to communicate more readily with his doctors and family.
Although his prognosis remains guarded, Ignacio’s eldest sister, Yanin Solis, said the family remains optimistic and hopeful. “He’s doing good; he is much better,” she said. “He’s talking a little bit more and he looks good.”
In the meantime, Ignacio’s five siblings are being cared for in their Oakley home by an aunt, while his mother remains with him at the hospital. The Oakley school community has come together to establish an account in Ignacio’s name at the Bank of the West in Oakley. A fundraiser for the family is also being planned. To contribute, call O’Hara Park Middle School at 925-625-5060 or Bank of the West at 925-625-2211.