Advocate Story:

Advocate Spotlight: Manuel Barriga

Tatum, NM More From NM

The memories remained fresh in the mind of Manuel Barriga II, causing him to choke up as he talked about the day in February when he lost his mother, Sally Ann Barriga.

Manuel answered a call from his father who was frantic, who told him his mother had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. As he drove the few minutes across town to his parents’ house, he called 911 en route. As an EMT, Manuel knew what to expect upon arrival. He immediately started CPR compressions as he waited for help.

But the rural town of Tatum, N.M., doesn’t have Emergency Management Systems - only volunteer, meaning a longer response time for help. Additionally, when the first wave of help arrived, an AED device hadn’t been properly maintained and didn’t deliver the needed charge. Manuel continued CPR for more than 30 minutes as he tried to get his mother to the nearest hospital, but she passed away.

“We were definitely doing good CPR,” Manuel said. “We thought we got a rhythm back twice. (Had the AED worked), it definitely would have given her a better chance at survival.”

In May, Manuel was part of Hearts on the Hill, a large group of AHA advocates who traveled to Washington, D.C., to urge legislators to pass the HEARTS Act (House of Representatives) and the Access to AEDs Act (Senate). He talked about his mother and about how rural areas really need access to more AEDs, more people who are trained in CPR, the ability to maintain AEDS, and Cardiac Emergency Response Plans in schools, all things the two bills hope to achieve.

On Capitol Hill

“My siblings keep telling me about how my mom would be proud that I was able to have that chance,” Manuel said. “The best part was being able to talk directly to the people who make a difference for us, telling our stories and letting them know what we’re looking at. We need to get this across the finish line.”

Manuel strongly supports everyone learning CPR.

“I believe strongly it should be taught in our school systems,” he said. “We should be taught it’s OK to touch someone and that you’re saving someone’s life. You do fire drills in school. We need to know what to do with cardiac arrest.”

On Capitol Hill

Manuel, who has worked for the Nor-Lea Hospital District for 13 years, now serves as the Bio-Medical Coordinator. He’s also served as the volunteer EMS Chief for Tatum and still assists as an EMT. He’s been called upon to perform CPR numerous times, and because Tatum is such a small town, he’s had to perform it on people he knows, like a former classmate and also a former teacher.

“I had one guy come back and shake my hand after his cardiac arrest event,” Manuel said. “The biggest reason he’s alive is he had immediate CPR and medical care within a minute of going down. The more people that know CPR, that’s the first leg of the race. The second is the AED. It’s amazing what chance it will afford someone.”

Team New Mexico in DC

Manuel said he enjoyed going to the meetings with fellow New Mexicans who had likewise been affected by heart disease or sudden cardiac arrest.

“We were kind of motivated by each other’s stories,” he said. “It’s painstaking the way it affects your family and your life. The ones we must reach out to are the ones who haven’t been affected by it with someone that was close to them.”

“I’m proud of the fact I had this opportunity, if only to save one person’s life.”

Please join me as a member of the You’re the Cure network to learn how you can help save lives where you live:  --  Manuel Barriga II

Manuel & Tori