Chelsea Steiner is a certified emergency medical technician, but she doesn’t have a job in that field yet. She works as a manager at Domino’s, volunteering with paramedics in her free time to get hands-on experience.
Earlier this week, when she was visiting friends on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Steiner, 22, had an unexpected opportunity to put her EMT skills to use.
Steiner was hanging out at her friends’ house when one of the friends, Rebecca Figueroa, noticed her bright yellow pet parakeet, Tweety, was lying facedown in a food bowl.
Figueroa was alarmed that Tweety was not in her usual spot, on a bar next to Smokey, the other bird in the cage. Tweety had looked fine and healthy when Figueora left for work several hours earlier, she said. Now, it clearly was not.
Figueora picked up Tweety and abruptly placed the bird in Steiner’s hand, saying, “He’s dying.”
“First I was like, ‘What?’ ” Steiner said. “I had it in my hand, and it had clearly stopped moving.”
Steiner stared at the helpless bird and then had a revelation: “I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. I’m a certified EMT. I know what to do.’ ”
As Steiner leaped into action, Figueroa grabbed her phone and started recording.
Steiner’s training kicked in. She set Tweety down on its back, legs up, and started doing small chest compressions — tiny ones really — with her fingertips.
She bent over and gave Tweety rescue breaths.
Figueroa and her roommate, Brittany Bryan, giggled at the implausible sight. But Steiner kept going, a very serious expression on her face, the video shows.
About 30 seconds into the video, Tweety pops up and flips onto its feet. Startled, Steiner jumps back in excitement.
“I did it, but I did not think it would work,” Steiner said in an interview. “My friends were laughing, thinking I was ridiculous. They were shocked. I was shocked.”
Veterinarian James K. Morrisey, a specialist in avian medicine and senior lecturer at Cornell University, reviewed the video and said Steiner appeared to perform the CPR effectively — fast compressions that matched a bird’s speedy heart beat, and rescue breaths that covered the nose and mouth.
“She did it correctly when we talk about CPR at home for little birds,” Morrisey said. “The bird reacted like a bird that was unconscious and became conscious. They are prey animals, so their response is to try to get away.”
Indeed, Tweety appeared to bounce back. But the following day, the women found Tweety at the bottom of the cage again, this time dead.
“Nature seemed to take its course,” Steiner said.
Steiner said that in the past year as a volunteer EMT, she’s been part of a crew that performed CPR on several people, though she’s never done it on her own. She has seen three people saved.
As for Tweety, she said she felt good she tried all she could.
“It means a lot to me to have performed such an important act,” she said.