Their two-on-two basketball game was winding down around 8:30 p.m. June 15 at Sonoma Valley High School when Mikey Serbicki, 16, threw a “terrible” pass, sending the ball out of bounds and his friends into a fit of laughter.
As Mason Matulaitis, 19, returned from fetching the ball, Serbicki was sprawled out on the blacktop. At first, his friends thought it was a joke, part of Serbicki’s well-loved humor, Matulaitis said.
But when the Sonoma teen didn’t sit up and wouldn’t respond, his friends realized something was deathly wrong. Nate Jordan, 19, checked his friend’s pulse.
“(Jordan) put his fingers up to his neck and he wanted me to come over and double-check to make sure that he's actually not joking around, that he wasn't just missing it,” Matulaitis said. “He then said, ‘His heartbeat is super faint.’”
Serbicki’s three friends jumped into action.
Toby Ford-Monroe, 20, called 911 and relayed their location, while dispatchers warned the teens Serbicki had likely entered cardiac arrest. Matulaitis began to perform chest compressions, skills he learned from his physical education class at the high school. Jordan noticed a newly constructed automated external defibrillator station 50 yards away.
“I ran over to grab the AED. I was a bit panicked, but... I got the AED and put it on Mikey,” Jordan said.
Jordan turned on the AED, which gives audible step-by-step instructions. He attached the sensor to Serbicki to track his heart rate. It soon told the young men they would need to administer an electric and lifesaving shock.
“I was hoping he was gonna be all right. I mean, when you see your friend laying on the ground it looks kind of scary,” Mason said. “You’re just hoping that this is not going to be the last time you see him.”
They attached a pad from the machine to the sides of Serbicki’s chest, near his kidneys. Then, the machine ordered Jordan to shock his friend.
“I had to swallow the emotion, so I just pressed the button,” Jordan said. “I didn't like it, but it’s what I had to do.”
Serbicki convulsed from the electric shock. Jordan and Matulaitis resumed chest compressions in between two more shocks.
Jordan was performing CPR when paramedics arrived. They advised him to compress the chest harder and faster. He continued until enough paramedics were able to take over.
“They rushed the scene when we were on top of him,” Jordan said. “I don’t even really remember what happened after that. It was just kind of like a haze of weirdness.”
Within minutes, an emergency helicopter landed on adjacent basketball courts, ready to transport Serbicki to a trauma center. The noise attracted the “whole neighborhood” to the scene, Matulaitis said.
Serbicki was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. When his friends arrived, he was still in critical condition and only family was allowed to see him.
“They didn’t let us in, so we just went home and I guess tried to sleep,” Jordan said.
They received updates over the next two days while Serbicki was under heavy sedation, Matulaitis said.
It’s still uncertain what caused Serbicki’s cardiac arrest, but he’s now in stable condition.
In the days after the incident, the boys received calls from Serbicki’s mother thanking them for the quick actions that may have saved her son. Sonoma Valley Fire Chief Steve Akre said Serbicki’s friends did “everything right.”
Asked if Serbicki owes them a life debt, Matulaitis joked, “we haven't discussed what he owes me in terms of cash. Maybe just come hang out with me when you're out (of the hospital).”