St. Louis student helps save life of ‘stranger’

In a moment of crisis, would you act to save a stranger’s life? Would you even know what to do? A teenager faced those questions when he stepped in to try save someone that turned out not to be a stranger at all.

Last month, St. Louis School senior Matthew Ornelles and his father John were driving home towards Pauoa Valley. They then saw a man lying unconscious on Booth Road.

John Ornelles said “we just stopped the car and blocked traffic, and I jumped on the phone, checked his pulse, there was no pulse, and I told my son just start CPR right away.”

In a twist of fate, it turns out the 35-year old man the Ornelles helped save was the band director at Matthew’s school, Brett Shimabuku.

On Thursday, Shimabuku took time to thank the Ornelles at a school rally. He also noted the unexpected connection he had with the Emergency Services crew that was first to arrive on scene after he collapsed while jogging.

“When I arrived at the scene,” said responder Dawn Tsuha, “I didn’t recognize him because it was dark. … It wasn’t until I was at the hospital and saw the name, I was just amazed, I was floored.”

It turns out Tsuha went to the same high school as Shimabuku. Along with fellow first responder, Kay Tomasa, they were able to stabilize Shimabuku.

The Ornelles knew the importance of CPR due to their own unfortunate circumstances. Back in 2012, John’s wife had a heart attack at the family’s home while she was watching TV in the living room.

“My wife died of a heart attack while we were sleeping,” he said. “I woke up and found her unresponsive. I started to do compression and called EMS and they walked me through it and Matthew came over and took over for me, so he worked on his mother.

“We were unable to revive her, but that experience gave us a whole lot of knowledge.”

Knowledge that helped to guide Matthew as he was trying to save another person’s life, less than two years after his mom died.

“The only thought I had is that we have to help this man,” Matthew said, “we have to do something, and I think that comes from my mom as well, because she was a very helping person.”

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