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ASU Police officer saves student's life, is thanked by family

officers and student
November 04, 2014

Arizona State University freshman Joseph Florio was playing a game of volleyball with his friends when he suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. While his friends immediately began CPR and called 911, ASU Police Department Officer Jarrod Dacquisto responded to the call that came over his police radio.

Dacquisto quickly realized the urgency of the situation and deployed his automated external defibrillator (AED) that officers carry in their patrol cars. After administering the shock that Florio’s heart needed from the AED, it began to beat again.

Officer Dacquisto was honored for his heroic actions twice this week – first by the Faculty Senate that presented the officer with a commendation for saving the life of an ASU student, and also by the student’s family at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“It was a surreal situation to use the AED. My training kicked in and did what I needed to do,” said Dacquisto about that day in mid-October. “I’ve learned from great leadership.”

Florio has had heart surgeries in the past and has a complex congenital heart history, said Dr. Mitchell Cohen, chief of cardiology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“He had a complete cardiac arrest,” Cohen said. After Dacquisto administered the defibrillating shock to his heart, Florio was “brought back to life.”

“You saved this young boy’s life,” Cohen said. He also pointed to the importance of having AEDs available and accessible so the life-saving machines can be used in situations such as these.

Cindy Harris is Florio’s mother and a U.S. Air Force physician who realized the gravity of the situation when she arrived at the hospital and the doctor told her that her son’s heart had stopped.

“It was just a sinking feeling,” Harris said. “Everything is a blur. It’s overwhelming as a parent.”

After hearing about the heroic actions of the officer, Florio’s family wanted to thank him in person.

“He responded right away,” Harris said. She’s also grateful for her son’s “tremendous” friends and fellow ASU students who performed CPR before Officer Dacquisto arrived.

Harris brought Officer Dacquisto a bouquet of red roses, a gift and a world of gratitude for saving her son’s life.

“Thank you for all that you do,” Harris said. “I do have to hug you.”

Leaders within the ASU Police Department are also proud of the officer’s actions.

“The Police Department is very proud of Officer Dacquisto for his quick response and recognition of the situation when seconds literally counted. I have observed him on other occasions going above and beyond the call of duty so I am not surprised in the least by his actions. His performance is indicative of many of the officers that work here at the ASU Police Department,” said ASU Police Department Chief Michael Thompson.

A biomedical engineering major, Florio was soon studying calculus during his hospital stay and was back in classes about 10 days after his heart stopped.

“I’m very thankful you saved my life,” Florio said to Dacquisto.

Dacquisto is simply happy that he was able to provide the medical intervention that was needed in a dire situation.

“It’s not often that we get to see the fruits of our labor. I’m happy I had the tool,” Dacquisto said.