One fateful day: Adam's story at Queen of the Valley Hospital
What happened to Adam Arambula at school that Monday is never supposed to happen, and rarely does. “When we first arrived on scene, we found Adam lifeless — he was clinically dead,” Fireman/Paramedic Joseph Silguero explained.
An active, healthy 11-year-old, Adam was walking from the school cafeteria to the basketball courts after lunch with his friends when he suddenly fell face first onto the blacktop — breaking some of his top front teeth. Adam tried to catch himself, but his arms went limp.
Known for his sense of humor, Adam could have easily been playing a practical joke that April Fool’s Day at Monte Vista Elementary School. But when they saw the blood, his friends knew this was no joke — Adam was in trouble.
One friend ran to get help while the other stayed by Adam’s side. After a recess aide called 9-1-1, the paramedics arrived within minutes. Thankfully the fire station is across the street from the school — Adam’s pulse had slowed to a stop just as the ambulance pulled up.
Rescuers in action
Joseph Silguero, fireman/paramedic for the City of West Covina, arrived first with his captain and his partner. Adam was in full cardiac arrest, meaning his heart and breathing had stopped. “When we first arrived on scene, we found Adam lifeless — he was clinically dead,” Joseph explained.
Joseph and his team immediately began giving Adam CPR. After about three minutes, he miraculously began to breathe. “The feeling that I felt — his chest rising underneath my right hand — was the most amazing feeling,” Joseph recalled. “I saw both my kids being born. [As firemen] we see death every day — we don’t always see this.”
Once Adam’s breathing and pulse had returned, they loaded him onto the ambulance and headed to Queen of the Valley Hospital (QVH).
A parent's nightmare
Meanwhile, the school called to notify Adam’s mom, Yadi, who was at work an hour away. They explained that Adam had fallen and been taken by ambulance to QVH.
“It was the longest trip ever,” she recalled. “On my way, I got another two phone calls from the school, asking if I was there yet.” Adam’s father, José, had just arrived at work when Yadi called to notify him, and he also headed to the hospital.
“I finally get there and I see his principal walking out of the Emergency Room,” Yadi recalled. “She said, ‘You need to get in there now.’”
An exemplary team
Doctors then explained that Adam had gone into V-fib, or ventricular fibrillation, a problem with the heart’s rhythm where the heart beats erratically, causing the ventricles to quiver instead of pump blood — cutting off blood supply to vital organs. V-fib is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death.
“In a case like Adam’s, time is of the essence,” explained QVH Staff Emergency Physician Brenda Hayakawa, MD. “Fortunately, I work with an exemplary staff here at Queen of the Valley — the teamwork here is phenomenal. When there’s a patient who really needs help, everybody just jumps in, no questions asked.”
When Adam arrived, the QVH clinical team jumped into action. Dr. Hayakawa intubated him to protect his airway and ordered blood work, a CT scan and chest X-ray to assess his condition. Adam was later transferred to a pediatric intensive care unit where he remained for nearly a week before undergoing surgery.
To continue monitoring Adam’s heartbeat, surgeons placed an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) in his chest to detect any abnormal heartbeats and use electrical pulses to restore a normal rhythm.
One in a million
It is exceedingly rare for a pediatric patient like Adam to experience V-fib. The cause of ventricular fibrillation is not always known, and not all patient stories end happily like Adam’s.
Emanate Health – The community’s health care system
“The feeling that I felt – his chest rising underneath my right hand – was the most amazing feeling. I saw both my kids being born. (As firemen) we see death every day – we don’t always see this.” – Joseph Silguero, City of West Covina fireman/paramedic
Yadi is grateful to everyone who was present that fateful day to help save Adam’s life, and has since explained to him the significance of sharing his story: “If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t be here.” – Yadi Arambula, Adam’s mom
Thanks to Emanate Health donors
And without you, our generous donors, Emanate Health wouldn’t be here. The QVH emergency department (ED) was built years ago to serve 30,000 patients. In 2018, there were nearly 80,000 patient visits to the ED – more than double the current capacity.
What happens when the ED is at capacity and a new patient arrives? They wait – while others with life-threatening emergencies hang on for paramedic assistance.
We project a 30% increase in patient visits over the next ten years. With your support, we can transform our 24-bed ED into 36,000 square feet of space with 60 patient beds.
We need you to make it happen. Together, let’s give more kids like Adam a happy ending.
Adam with his sister Ariana, dad Jose and mom Yadi