Last Friday, Jan. 30, Joey Bairaktaris ’16 was honored by the American Red Cross for saving his co-worker’s life.
“Joey has a personality that lights up a room,” principal John Dodig said. “When I saw his face on WestportNow.com, I smiled because I know him and because he is a Staples student. I was very proud of what he had done and proud of him as a person.”
Bairaktaris recalls the night at Compo Beach on Monday, May 31, 2014 starting off calm.
“At night, work gets slow, and it’s much more relaxed,” Bairaktaris said. However, his shift he was subbing for quickly escalated to “a dark night with flashing lights taking over.”
Bairaktaris had just picked up a 5 p.m to 10 p.m. shift working the maingate at Compo Beach for a summer job. Just as his shift was about to end, Bairaktaris left his post at the maingate to use the bathroom at the marina, claiming “it’s just a nicer bathroom.”
Walking towards the marina, he passed his co-worker, Doc Kashka, who was walking in the opposite direction towards the maingate. As they passed each other, they joked around briefly, Bairaktaris remembers Kashka, “just being himself, nothing out of the ordinary. His personality is hilarious.”
However, a few moments later, halfway across the parking lot, Bairaktaris heard a woman frantically screaming.
“All I saw was a crowd of kids and a shadow in the darkness, which I immediately knew was Doc on the ground,” Bairaktaris said. “I was sweating and shaking even before I got there.”
Bairaktaris found Kashka laying under a tree in the middle of a field. Kashka was unresponsive, with no pulse, no heartbeat as off-duty lifeguard and Staples alumni Ian Chasnow ’11 began chest compressions.
When Chasnow became exhausted from performing CPR, he took a break and Bairaktaris took over. Bairaktaris knelt down beside Kashka and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with no protection shield.
Prior to the incident, Bairaktaris had taken an EMT class, which prepared him on how to react in emergencies.
“You have to wipe out all your fears and worries when you’re doing CPR,” Bairaktaris said. “If you don’t, that will impact the outcome of the situation. If you’re worried, then the fear spreads.”
Shortly after, supervisor David Ellis arrived at the scene, immediately calling the police. Minutes later, the EMS, fire department and police came. Kashka had reportedly collapsed after his heart fell out of rhythm. He was in a coma for six days, and spent four months in rehabilitation.
“The good thing was he got to make his daughter’s wedding,” Bairaktaris said with a smile.
Along with the Red Cross ceremony, Bairaktaris also got recognition from the governor and senator with a certificate and a letter.
“We weren’t looking to get an award or to be seen in the newspaper,” Bairaktaris said. “We just have pride knowing that we helped save a life.”