Five-year-old Rene Casas heard his grandfather crying out in pain and knew something had to be done.
He ran to get his grandmother, who was busy doing laundry in the garage. But she didn't realize how serious the situation was and brushed him away.
So Rene took matters into his own hands: He picked up the telephone and dialed 911, the universal emergency number that went into effect in Los Angeles County last year. Then he ran to his grandfather's bedroom and told him what he had done.
'You Were Screaming'
"I was surprised," said Edward Martin, 65, who was on the verge of a heart attack on the day last February when his young grandson came to his aid. "I said, 'How come you called the paramedic? Who told you to call?' He said, 'Grandpa, you were screaming and you needed help. The paramedics are going to come and get you.' He took it upon himself to call the paramedic. He took care of me.
"I still cry when I think about it," Martin added, overwhelmed with emotion. "He saved my life."
When Rene dialed the emergency line, a computer tracked down the Martins' address and phone number and flashed the information on a screen at the El Monte police station. A police dispatcher sent a paramedic team to the Martin home in El Monte within 10 minutes.
Discovered Blood Clot
Martin was taken by ambulance to Greater El Monte Community Hospital, where doctors discovered a blood clot in an artery and kept him in intensive care for three days until his condition was stabilized.
Now Martin is recuperating at home, while remaining under a doctor's care. And little Rene is basking in the glow of his heroic act.
The West Covina youngster was honored for his bravery by the county Board of Supervisors two weeks ago. He also has received a letter of commendation from state Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights).
During an interview at his home, he had one word to describe his reaction to the attention: "Happy," he said proudly.
Rene, who attends kindergarten at Dove Day School in West Covina, recalled how he knew to dial 911. "I learned it from a policeman who came to my school," he said.
When he saw his grandfather in pain, he said, "I was worried. I called 911 and then the ambulance came and so did the paramedics and they took him to the hospital."
At the time of the emergency, his grandmother, Josephine Martin, was putting clothes in the dryer while trying to keep an eye on two other grandchildren who were spending the day with her. She said she could not hear her husband's cries of pain, although she knew he was not feeling well; in fact, she was waiting for their son to arrive to take him to the doctor.
Paid Him Little Heed
But when Rene came rushing in to ask for help, she said, she paid him little heed. "I said, 'I know, I know, wait a minute. David (her son) is coming.'
"Thank God Rene took matters in his own hands," she said. "He is a very smart little boy."
Rene's parents rewarded him with a trip to Universal Studios. "I wanted to reinforce what he'd done," said Roberto Casas, a school administrator.
Casas said his son and Martin have a close relationship. "They're like Mutt and Jeff," he said. "They're very attached to one another."
He described Rene as inquisitive by nature and in some ways mature for his age. "A lot of people think he's 7 or 8 because of his vocabulary," he said.
According to his father, Rene knows he did something special. "He asks periodically if he's a hero, and I try to put it in the proper perspective," Casas said. "I tell him that what he did is unusual for someone his age but that he has to be very careful when he uses that number."
Casas said that, much to his chagrin, Rene called 911 again in the middle of the night shortly after the episode with his grandfather, although there was no emergency.
"He was semi-asleep. I think he had been dreaming about his feat," Casas said. "I spanked his bottom. I had to let the little hero know that was not right."
Although chastened, Rene said he knows what a hero is and that he is one. "It's the best man," he said before running off to play.