Nancy Ortiz knelt alongside the 4-year-old boy, breathing into his mouth and rapidly compressing his chest, hoping to give him a second chance.
Eventually, Ortiz heard a gurgling sound from the child, who had been hit by a car Sunday evening while crossing a street near Stewart Park where his mother had been playing soccer. Ortiz got a pulse. The boy was trying to breathe and open his eyes.
A police officer arrived and took over the CPR. Then came the ambulance and paramedics who gave the boy oxygen and raced him to Hennepin County Medical Center. In a brief moment with the boy's father, Ortiz consoled him, saying his son was breathing and had a pulse. "Let's hope for the best."
But at exactly 11:43 Monday morning, Ortiz, a 22-year-old nurse, learned the grim news via a text on her phone. Four-year-old Jose Parra Hernandez had died.
"Something like that, you don't forget," she said. "I read it and just wanted it not to be there. I kept thinking, 'No, no. He had to have made it. ... It was devastating."
According to police, the driver, a 58-year-old woman from Minneapolis, was distraught immediately after the accident at E. 26th Street and 11th Avenue S. shortly after sunset. Although the case will be forwarded to the county attorney's office for consideration of charges, police said there is nothing initially to suggest that the driver had done anything wrong.
Ortiz, who graduated with a nursing degree in May and was licensed in August, instinctively ran toward the screams Sunday evening after she heard the distinct sounds of a crash. "I needed to see if everyone was OK and if anyone needed my help."
And that's when she saw the dad, carrying and cradling the unconscious child. "He was crying and talking in Spanish," said Ortiz, who was born in Ecuador and speaks Spanish fluently. "He kept saying, 'My son, my son.' "
After he placed his son on the ground, a crowd gathered. Ortiz and others shouted for someone to call 911. The boy wasn't breathing; there was no pulse. So Ortiz began CPR: 30 chest compressions; two breaths.
For a moment, she thought about her 1-year-old daughter and how she would want someone to give her a second chance if something tragic happened. And then she heard people crying; others screaming. "I just had to block it out. ... I couldn't let my emotions get out. I just needed to put into practice what they taught me in class."
But this was a child, not a mannequin. There were no instructors standing by telling her what to do. "His life was in danger and no one was telling me if I was doing it right or wrong."
Ortiz can't shake the image of the child on the ground, his dad kneeling over his son in shock and horror. "I see the boy laying there -- this little kid fighting for his life," said Ortiz, who went home and hugged her own daughter.
She's spent the past two days questioning whether she did everything right. "I wonder whether there was anything I could have done differently to give him more of a chance," she said.
But those who know Ortiz say she did everything possible. "I get told that at least I gave the parents time to say goodbye," she said.
"I'm a faithful person," said Ortiz, who had contemplated skipping the Sunday soccer game. "I believe God put me there for a reason."
Paul Walsh contributed to this report.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788