As an Eagle Scout, Dylan Mehri ’18 is familiar with the Scout motto: Be prepared. It’s a vague command—be prepared for what, exactly?—but Mehri demonstrated the importance of preparation earlier this summer when he used his extensive CPR training to save a man’s life.
Mehri had just settled down to a production of The Merchant of Venice at the Folger Theater in Washington, D.C., when there was an outburst from the front row. The character of Shylock had been bantering with the audience, so it wasn’t immediately clear that the commotion wasn’t part of the performance. Then someone began shouting for a doctor, and word circulated that an elderly man had suffered a heart attack. “I was expecting EMTs or medical staff from the theater to rush in pretty quickly, but when that didn’t happen, I realized I need to do something,” Mehri says. He told his mother and sister he was going up to help. “I’m certified and I really need to see if I can do something.”
With the help of a nurse practitioner, who was able to locate a defibrillator, Mehri performed CPR for nearly an hour before the paramedics were able to take the man, Dr. Edward Cornfeld, to a hospital. At one point, one of Cornfeld’s ribs cracked, which Mehri explained is common—it means he was applying enough pressure to get blood flowing back to the brain. This was Mehri’s first time performing a CPR rescue, but his experiences in the Boy Scouts, as well as his training for his SCUBA certification, served him well. “I owe my life to these people,” said Cornfeld, who coincidentally is the father of Oberlin alum Robert Cornfeld ’96.
After the rescue, audience members and actors alike approached Mehri to thank him. (That day’s performance of the show was cancelled.) “The actor who played Shylock came up to me and shook my hand,” Mehri says. “I didn’t recognize him without his costume at first, but he thanked me for what I did. And then in the middle of the conversation I was like, ‘Oh wait, you’re Shylock!’ He got a good laugh out of that.”
Mehri heavily stresses the importance of becoming CPR trained. “To anyone who’s reading this article or seeing these interviews with me, they have the opportunity to get CPR and emergency training,” Mehri says. “It really saves lives. You never think you’re going to find yourself in that position, but if you are, it’s good to feel confident and prepared instead of just being a bystander who’s feeling like they can’t help a loved one or a stranger on the street who’s in a dire situation.”
A native of Washington, D.C., Mehri is a politics and Hispanic studies double major. At Oberlin, he has played football and club rugby and is an officer in the Oberlin College Democrats as well as a Cole Scholar. This summer, he is interning for U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) as part of the Cole Scholars program.