Young intern saved Gabrielle Giffords's life
By MEREDITH SHINER | 1/9/11 9:31 AM EST
TUSCON — A heroic young intern for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords - who had been on the job for only five days - quickly rushed to stop the bleeding moments after she had been shot and his quick thinking is being credited with saving the congresswoman’s life.
The Arizona Republic published a profile of 20-year-old University of Arizona junior Daniel Hernandez, revealing he was standing 30 feet from Giffords when shots were fired outside a local Safeway — and that he ran toward them.
“I don’t even know if the gunfire had stopped,” he told the Arizona Republic Saturday night at the University Medical Center in Tuscon.
Outside the hospital just before midnight, in an exchange witnessed by POLITICO, Tuscon Mayor Bob Walkup briefed a group of about a dozen locals who had gathered around a make-shift vigil and pointed to Hernandez as the “young man” likely responsible for saving Giffords’ life.
Moments after the shootings, Hernandez checked the pulses of other shooting victims who were lying on the pavement and spotted Giffords.
He applied pressure on the bullet entry point to stop the bleeding and pulled Giffords into his lap, holding her upright against him so she wouldn’t choke on her own blood. Giffords was conscious, but quiet, the Republic reported.
He then instructed another bystander how to apply pressure to the wounds suffered by Giffords’ district director Ron Barber.
According to the Republic, Barber told Hernandez, “Make sure you stay with Gabby. Make sure you help Gabby.”
He stayed with Giffords until paramedics arrived and rode with her in the ambulance. On the ride to the hospital, he held her hand. She squeezed his back, the paper said.
The fact that Hernandez was nearby and able to react quickly probably saved Giffords’ life, said state Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, and a hospital physician. He talked to Hernandez at the hospital after the shooting.
Hernandez, who arrived at the hospital covered in blood, was “ecstatic” to learn his new boss had survived.
“She was one of the people I’ve looked up to. Knowing she was alive and still fighting was good news. She’s definitely a fighter, whether for her own life, or standing up for people in southern Arizona.”
Later, he sat with his family and told them about his friends and the staffers who had died that day.
“You just have to be calm and collected,” he told the Republic. “You do no good to anyone if you have a breakdown.. .. It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots, but people needed help.”