Thanks to the quick work of a San Juan, Puerto Rico TSA officer, an airport passenger is alive today.
Lead TSA officer Jose Aviles was in a public restroom at Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU) when he suddenly heard a gasping sound coming from one of the stalls. Worried, Aviles looked under the door of the stall and found a man who was struggling to breathe, face down on the floor.
Knowing time was of the essence, Aviles immediately called for help, and paramedics soon responded to the scene.
“When I heard the gasping, it caught my attention because it was an unusual sound coming from a person,” said Aviles. “I knew I had to react quickly. The young man’s life was in jeopardy, and time was a key factor to save his life.”
Later, Aviles learned from one of the paramedics that the man, identified as Magdiel Romero, would have died from an overdose had Aviles not jumped in to help.
Nearly two months later, Romero returned to SJU with his parents and asked to meet the officer who saved him. Romero thanked Aviles for saving his life and said he had been intubated for 10 days after going into respiratory, cardiac, and renal arrest. He then entered a rehab center and returned to SJU to take a photo with Aviles before catching a flight out of San Juan. Aviles told Romero he had received a second chance of life and to treasure it.
This wasn’t the first time Aviles helped a passenger with an emergency. “A few days after Hurricane Maria, I escorted paramedics to the terminal to assess a passenger with an apparent cardiac arrest,” Aviles recalled. Unfortunately, that passenger didn’t make it, but Aviles said, “That situation taught me the importance of a quick reaction to bring help as soon as possible.”
Aviles said he always encourages fellow officers to be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to details.
“I felt awesome and grateful that in some way my actions took part in saving this young man’s life. It was also a pretty good feeling that I had a moment to advise him of the second chance that life had given him.”
“Aviles recognized the man was in distress and acted immediately to save his life,” said Federal Security Director Jose Baquero. “I am very proud of Officer Aviles.”