Walter Virany said he knew his friend Parker Lewis wasn’t kidding around when Lewis dropped his phone from the top of the bleachers at a skate park.
“It took me 10 seconds to realize he was making some odd sounds,” Virany said.
The 15-year-old Peters Township High School sophomore told the story following an assembly at the school Friday to recognize him for helping to save his friend’s life. Lewis went into cardiac arrest Oct. 15 in South Park, and that’s when Virany turned from buddy to hero.
Virany received awards Friday from the Allegheny County Police, one of the agencies that responded that Saturday morning, and St. Clair Hospital in Scott Township, where Lewis was taken.
“We’ll be talking about it forever, and our friendship will last forever,” Lewis, who’s since recovered, told the audience as the teens stood together onstage in matching gray suits.
Before presenting Virany with the Allegheny County Police Citizen Service Award, Superintendent Coleman McDonough said Virany and Lewis were sitting on the bleachers when Lewis told his friend, “I think my heart just stopped,” and he fell unconscious.
Virany – who like all students at the high school learned CPR as part of a personal wellness class during his freshman year – administered CPR for 10 or 12 minutes until emergency medical personnel arrived in response to a 911 call.
“Adrenaline kind of took over, and I didn’t think about it, and I did what needed to be done,” Virany said in an interview.
Emergency medicine specialist Dr. Kevin Friend presented Virany with St. Clair Hospital’s Healthcare Hero Award.
Friend noted the rarity of cardiac arrest in people as young as Lewis. He said the survival rate in cardiac arrest is 10 percent when it occurs outside a hospital. He said “bystander CPR” can triple a patient’s chances of survival.
“The people who perform the bystander CPR – heroes like Walter Virany – are as vital to a patient’s survival as the police, the paramedics, the doctors and nurses who go on to take over their care,” Friend said.
John Vavala has taught personal wellness at the high school for about 15 years. He said he was “thrilled but not surprised” when he learned what Virany had done.
“A long time ago, I had a student that had to use the Heimlich maneuver, but never CPR,” Vavala said. “This is the first time.”
Virany’s quick decision-making doesn’t signal a budding interest in the medical field. Instead, he said he’s interested in entertainment – namely acting.
“I’ve been asked a lot if I want to be a doctor. No,” he said. “I want to make people laugh.”