Zachary Fortress stands outside Eisenhower High School with his past medical class teacher, Phil Crum.

Zachary Fortress stands outside Eisenhower High School with his past medical class teacher, Phil Crum.

Photo provided by Utica Community Schools

UCS graduate saves man’s life with CPR learned in high school

By: Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published December 4, 2020


SHELBY TOWNSHIP/UTICA/STERLING HEIGHTS — A Utica Community Schools graduate recently helped save the life of a man who was having a medical emergency at a storage unit.

Zachary Fortress, a Shelby Township resident and 2019 graduate of Eisenhower High School, was at American Mini Storage at 25 Mile and Mound roads with his dad Oct. 27 when a middle-aged man collapsed from what was later determined to be a heart attack. The man’s co-workers — the man was part of a group of utility workers — began calling for anyone nearby who might know CPR.

Fortress thought back to his training in teacher Phil Crum’s class and sprang into action to administer chest compressions — a skill he said he learned in his medical health class at Eisenhower — on the individual until emergency personnel could help. When ambulances arrived, the middle-aged man was breathing and had a pulse.

Fortress said that, when he took the class, he didn’t think he was going to have to use what he learned.

“When you’re taught CPR, you never think you’re actually going to use it or how you will react in an emergency situation. Mr. Crum had said to stay calm, and I did,” he said in an email interview.

He said that after acting quickly to save the man’s life, he was really proud of how he handled it.

“I’m really proud of myself. Saving someone’s life isn’t something you think you’ll ever need to do. In that moment, it wasn’t a choice for me. A man was in danger. I’m going to jump in and help,” he said.

Crum said he was happy to hear that the skills Fortress had learned in the classroom were able to help him save a life during a real situation.

“I love the idea of helping kids get to where they want to go career-wise and giving them tools to succeed and make an impact in life. And the idea that Zachary was able to do the ultimate and save a life is just so rewarding — amazing, actually,” he said in an email interview.

Crum said he would use Fortress’ example in his class in the future for his students learning CPR.

“I will certainly use this as an example of ‘The Why’ (a phrase from the teaching) and that it can happen to them. Because I think many never expect to use it. Also, I will use this to discuss the impact this can have. Zach’s actions did the ultimate in saving someone’s life. He allowed a father to return home or someone’s son to spend another Thanksgiving with his family,” said Crum.