High school senior Aryana Noorian (center) and a classmate practice splinting during August’s Nursing Camp in Summer at UCI.
High school senior Aryana Noorian (center) and a classmate practice splinting during August’s Nursing Camp in Summer at UCI. Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing

Dr. Nader Noorian knew that calling 911 would not save him. His only hope, he realized as he struggled to breathe on the evening of Aug. 8, was immediate medical attention. Unfortunately, there were no doctors, nurses or paramedics in his Laguna Niguel home at the time, just his two younger children. To the doctor’s utter surprise, however, his teenage daughter, Aryana, came to his rescue. Incredibly, she had learned the Heimlich maneuver earlier that day at a summer nursing camp at UCI for high school students.

Arriving home from work, Dr. Noorian had been exceptionally hungry, so he quickly consumed large chunks of a stale baguette. It was a major mistake: A piece of bread lodged in his throat and cut off his oxygen supply. With precious seconds ticking by, he approached his older daughter, who was playing the piano, and tapped her urgently on the shoulder. She turned and saw that her father’s face was purple.

“Even though I had just taken the first aid class, I never thought I would have to use the Heimlich maneuver in my life, so it was very overwhelming, frightening and shocking,” recalls Aryana Noorian, 17. “But I also thought, ‘I learned this in class today. I can do this.’ So I did what I had learned, and it worked.”

She stood behind her father and placed a fist with the thumb side in below his rib cage. After grabbing her fist with her other hand, she made several quick, strong thrusts, pushing inward and upward. The food was still not coming up, so the high school senior tried once more, exerting the greatest force she could muster. Finally, her father was able to cough out the bread. He was breathing again.

“At first, I tried to show her what to do, because I didn’t expect her to know,” says Dr. Noorian, who wishes more people knew the lifesaving technique. “It’s amazing that she had just learned it. I got lucky there.”

Taught by faculty, Nursing Camp in Summer at UCI provides hands-on training for ninth- through 12th-graders, covering IV insertions, injections, vital signs, CPR, first aid, splinting and many other topics. Offered twice each summer, the weeklong NCIS: UCI also brings in nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing students and academic counselors to discuss various nursing professions and how to apply to nursing programs. A $2,000 registration fee ensures that only the most committed teens enroll, though five full scholarships are awarded per session based on merit and need.

The day camp, which started in 2017, has drawn students from New York, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Aryana Noorian, however, did not need to travel very far to attend, nor was UCI a foreign place. Her father had served his residency at UCI, and her brother is a UCI undergraduate majoring in biological sciences.

Her family’s dedication to healthcare – her mother is a nurse, and her brother hopes to become a doctor, like his father – wasn’t the only thing that inspired Noorian to participate in NCIS: UCI. She developed a personal interest in nursing when her cousin was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few years ago. Learning about the condition and how to administer insulin awoke in her a passion to care for others.

Noorian is currently part of her high school’s medical magnet program and volunteers at a local hospital. When she heard about UCI’s summer nursing camp, she was “all in.”

“It was nursing school sped up in a week, so it really gave me a vision of what it would be like to be a nurse,” Noorian says.

And where would she like to attend nursing school for real? UCI, of course – continuing her family’s Anteater tradition. “It’s my No. 1 choice,” she says. “UCI has everything I want. Even being on campus for a tour or visiting my brother, I just feel at home.”