Anaheim honors citizens who saved man in cardiac arrest

By Elysse James

Tony Lopez and Joshua Burciaga were returning from lunch when they saw a crowd gathered outside.

People were surrounding a man on the ground in the parking lot of the Lowe’s Home Improvement near the 24 Hour Fitness where they work.

They quickly realized the man had gone into cardiac arrest and a panicked bystander was trying, unsuccessfully, to do CPR.

Tony Lopez, general manager for 24 Hour Fitness, left, is honored by Anaheim Fire Chief Randy Bruegman, center, and Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, for his role in saving a life.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Burciaga, 24 Hour Fitness operations manager, and Lopez, general manager, stepped in and immediately took over. They had recently renewed their CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) certification at a class they hosted for other area 24 Hour Fitness stores.

“We didn’t even think twice,” said Lopez. “We were on the same page and we just did it.”

Burciaga sprinted toward the man and began compressions while Lopez grabbed the AED from 24 Hour Fitness.

“As soon as we came together we just worked as a team,” Burciaga said.

They took turns doing compressions for about six or seven minutes until Anaheim Fire & Rescue Engine 1 paramedics arrived at the Anaheim Gateway shopping center.

“Thanks to the training we knew not to stop when they got there, so we just kept going literally until they took over,” said Lopez, a former lifeguard.

Honoring Tony Lopez, third from left, and Joshua Burciaga, fifth from left, during an Anaheim City Council meeting are, from left, Anaheim Fire Chief Randy Bruegman, Councilwoman Lucille Kring, (Tony Lopez), Councilman James Vanderbilt, (Joshua Burciaga), Councilwoman Denise Barnes, Councilman Stephen Faessel, Councilman Dr. Jose Moreno, and Mayor Tom Tait.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

CPR keeps a patient’s blood circulating to their brain and vital organs until they can receive proper medical attention.

“They were continuing, basically, the life support until we got there,” Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman said. “The patient had a pulse before we got to the hospital. It’s very, very critical. Sometimes that’s all it takes – four, five, six minutes before – to really save lives.”

When paramedics arrived, they took over the compressions, unhooked the AED and connected the man to Anaheim Fire & Rescue equipment. The process was seamless, Burciaga said.

Joshua Burciaga, operations manager for 24 Hour Fitness, left, is honored by Anaheim Fire Chief Randy Bruegman for his role in saving a life.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“Just having that certification really gets you, in a way, prepared for it,” Burciaga said. “That’s why we require all of our employees to be CPR/AED certified and have that knowledge. I think it just helps at any given moment, regardless of where you are when the situation occurs.”

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Captain Roger Domen was impressed by their swift action, and when Mayor Pro Tem Jose Moreno heard about what happened he recommended they be honored by the City Council.

During Tuesday night’s Anaheim City Council meeting, Lopez and Burciaga were recognized by the City and Anaheim Fire & Rescue.

Anaheim Fire Chief Randy Bruegman, right, congratulates Joshua Burciaga, operations manager, left, and Tony Lopez, general manager for 24 Hour Fitness, for their roles in saving a life.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Mayor Tom Tait commended them “for their quick thinking and heroic actions in saving a life…That’s worth recognizing in our city of kindness.”

“What they did was phenomenal,” Bruegman said. “That’s why we encourage everybody to learn CPR. It’s very easy.”

“You just never know anymore when you’re going to run into situations like this, so it’s better to be trained,” Bruegman said.