Like many teens, Matthew Scalice is looking forward to graduating from high school today, June 4.
But unlike others, Scalice is especially grateful to receive his diploma at Canyon Country High. Three years ago Scalice, then 15, almost died while swimming, but was saved by a friend’s CPR and the rescue efforts by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and medical staff at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.
On Tuesday, June 2, Scalice was able to reunite and thank the rescue team that kept him alive, during a press conference at the medical center.
“When I wake up in the morning I put my hand over my heart, and I recognize my own heartbeat,” said Scalice, speaking to reporters. “I let that motivate me throughout that day. And I live every day like it’s my last.”
Three years ago, Scalice suffered an asthma attack and his heart stopped while racing a friend Josh Lucia underwater in a swimming pool. Lucia, who knew CPR, was able to pull Scalice partially out of the water and start the life-saving procedure.
Los Angeles County firefighter paramedics continued the CPR for another 20 to 30 minutes after they arrived.
Scalice was rushed to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. The initial diagnosis was grim: Doctors told his family that, if he survived, Scalice could possibly be permanently injured.
“You go four minutes without oxygen and the brain starts to suffer significant damage,” said Dr. David Hanpeter, the trauma medical surgeon who worked on Scalice that day at Holy Cross, to reporters.
Scalice was in a coma for 12 days, and also became the first teenage patient at the medical center to undergo hypothermic treatment. His body temperature was lowered in an effort to save brain function and prevent neurological damage.
“We were informed that [Matthew] had a pulse and a blood pressure,” said L.A. County Fire Capt. John Rossi, adding that was all the rescuers knew — due to HIPPA privacy laws — until seeing Scalice again on Tuesday.
Scalice made a point to hug and thank every rescuer, Hanpeter, and ICU nurse Michael Anringa, who worked to save his life three years ago.
The experience, he said, has given him a career path. Scalice now plans to study nursing.
“I’m here and I’m here because of these guys,” Scalice said. “I want to give that to somebody else, and I just feel that’s the most powerful gift I can give to somebody.”
— Mike Terry