Medical student saves neighbors from fire

February 26, 2013

Kyle Sulak (TCOM ’14)

When your neighbor is on fire, there’s no time to lose.

Kyle Sulak, a third-year Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine student, recently demonstrated the clear judgment and life-saving instincts essential to his future profession. Moments from departing with his wife for a post-Christmas drive to Waco, he heard screams. He investigated, and found a neighbor who lives three houses away in flames, running from his house.

"He had an orange glow around him," Sulak related. "I thought, ‘He’s on fire. I’ve got to help him.’"

Sulak opened an outdoor faucet and extinguished the man’s hands and legs. 

Sulak looked up at the house to see a young girl pounding from an upstairs window for help. He ran to his car, told his wife to call 911, then dashed back to the house where he found the neighbor’s teen-age son standing frozen in the entryway.

"He was panicked," Sulak said. "I grabbed him by the elbows and told him ‘everyone will be OK if we act fast. I need to know if you can help me. If you can’t help me, I need you to tell me where the stairs are so I can get your sister.’" 

Calmed, the boy said he could help and rushed upstairs through dense smoke to rescue his sister. Sulak led the neighbor’s mother from the kitchen to safety.

With everyone accounted for, the son found a water hose. Sulak returned to the house to put out the fire and kept cold water on the father’s burns until the fire department and paramedics arrived. 

The man was flown to Parkland Hospital Burn Center in Dallas and is now recuperating at home.

Sulak said his training at the UNT Health Science Center’s medical school helped him immediately prioritize his response while calming the victims.

He plans to be an anesthesiologist, which requires a "hands-on, procedure-oriented approach," Sulak said. "At times it requires you to act quickly and accurately in potentially life-threatening situations. 

"I want to help alleviate a person’s pain and the toll it takes in all aspects of their life. And I want to provide reassurance and relief to patients undergoing surgical procedures so the patient will have the best experience and outcome."

Diana Cervantes. Assistant Professor Biostatistics & Epidemiology
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