A First Responder's Decision To Ignore An Order Likely Saved A Parkland Teen's Life

"I thank God for allowing us to be an instrument in this miracle."

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14 took the lives of 17 students and educators, but were it not for the quick thinking of one first responder, the tragedy could have been even more deadly.

As reported by CNN, Lt. Laz Ojeda of the Coral Springs Fire Department was part of the third wave of first responders that entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the shooting. Though he had been told that his patient, Maddy Wilford, was 15 years old and would thus need to be transported to a hospital with a children's facility about 30 miles away, Ojeda was skeptical.

Since Wilford had sustained three gunshot wounds and was initially feared dead because of the amount of blood she'd lost, Ojeda knew he needed to act quickly if his patient were to have any shot at survival. That's when he took it upon himself to verify Wilford's age by attempting to wake her. Though she didn't respond at first, Wilford eventually regained consciousness long enough to tell Ojeda she was 17.

Upon learning her actual age, Ojeda made the split-second decision to bring Wilford to a different hospital just 10 miles from her high school, drastically reducing the transportation time. Though it might not seem like a crucial call, at a press conference on Feb. 26 doctors agreed Ojeda's choice likely saved Wilford's life.

Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, the medical director of trauma services at the hospital that treated Wilford told CNN, simply, "Yes, of course" when asked whether Ojeda's call to take the teen to the closer hospital instead of the more distant one saved her life.

At the same press conference, Wilford expressed gratitude for the first responders and doctors that worked so diligently to save her, explaining, "I'd just like to say that I'm so grateful to be here, and it wouldn't be possible without those officers and first responders and these amazing doctors."

Wilford's dad, David, echoed those sentiments at the press conference as well. Per CBS News, he said, "I am very grateful to be sitting here next to my daughter, alive and well today. There are a lot of people to thank for Maddy's life, and four of them are in the back of the room right there," while gesturing to the first responders. 

And even though Ojeda was quick to acknowledge that he alone did not save Wilford, he's relieved his quick-thinking contributed to her miraculous survival. "I am beyond words. All I can say is that I thank God," he said on CNN's New Day on Feb. 27. "I thank God for allowing us to be an instrument in this miracle."


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