For Immediate Release
May 12, 2015
MVC Young Alumnus: Steven John Casarez
Class of 1999
Registered Nurse at Riverside County Regional Medical Center and adjunct professor at the Ben Clark Training Center
Sept. 7, 1994, was meant to be a day to remember for Steven Casarez.
Fortunately, he can't remember a thing.
Undecided about his future after graduating from Centennial High School in Corona, Casarez sought his calling down Interstate 10. He and a buddy thought hooking up with friends for a long weekend at Arizona State University would be the inspiration they needed to start college. Casarez never made it to ASU.
"I was in the passenger seat when my friend fell asleep at the wheel," Casarez said. "We drifted across the median and hit a semitrailer head on."
Casarez regained full consciousness 10 days later in a Phoenix hospital. After fixing a blown-out orbit bone, fractured skull and broken nose, the doctors had put him into a medically induced coma. Casarez woke up to find 10 inches of stitches and staples in his head, as well as plates and pins. In all, he spent two weeks in the intensive care unit.
"I honestly don't know why I was going to ASU," Casarez said. "We had some friends who were attending the university, and other friends who were going to attend a vocal school in Arizona. We wanted to pair up, be together. I thought my life's answers laid in Arizona." In a strange way, they did.
A group of medical professionals-nurses, firefighters and emergency medical technicians-carpooling back from a weekend river trip was traveling behind the vehicle when the accident occurred. Within seconds, Casarez was being attended to on the pavement of I-10. Minutes later, a Mercy medevac helicopter was in flight â€“ all before the Highway Patrol had reached the scene. Casarez never met the men and women who saved him on that stretch of interstate 30 miles from the California border, but they changed his life.
"The accident was a turning event in my life," Casarez said. "Ultimately, it was the impact of them being there that drew me to this profession. I remember waking up in the hospital and, after hearing of their assistance, I decided I wanted to give back."
Returning home, Casarez enrolled first at Norco College but eventually transferred to Moreno Valley College to enroll in CPR and EMT classes.
"The first day I walked into the class, I knew this is where I wanted to be, where I needed to be, and that this was the career path for me," Casarez said.
"I realized that, as a civilian, when you see an ambulance, a fire truck or a police car, you don't understand the amount of education riding in those vehicles," he said. "It stimulated me because I realized there is this whole other world out there that I knew nothing about. And, it was that community that saved my life."
After graduating from MVC, Casarez earned his nursing degree at Riverside City College. Today he works at the Riverside County Regional Medical Center's Level II trauma center. He also teaches at the Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, helping prepare hundreds of students each year to work in public safety fields and works for American Medical Response as a nurse handling critical care transfers.
Teaching allows Casarez to reach a larger audience and make a difference in students' lives.
"The number one thing I tell them is to stay out of trouble," Casarez said. "After that, it is really just about setting a goal. Becoming an EMT is a stepping stone. There are so many avenues you can travel after completing the EMT program. The opportunities are endless.
"I think this profession motivates individuals to not stand still but to keep looking for opportunities and knowledge, things that inspire and challenge you. The worse thing you can do in this field is to accept limitations and stop challenging yourself."
Casarez looks back at the whole experience as an amazing journey. The scars from 20 years ago are faded, but his spirit and commitment grow stronger each day. He went from being lost to finding his way.
"Giving back to the citizens has been my biggest joy," Casarez said. "I'm proud of being able to give top-notch medical care to the community, regardless of socio-economic status and ethnicity. The hospital is as proud of it as I am. We are here to serve and heal. And, I try to take that to the streets when I'm out in the community. It motivates me every day to provide the best health care I can."