The patient wheeled into Olive View-UCLA Medical Center's emergency room was in critical condition, suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Emergency workers scrambled to save his life while two dozen students crowded around the gurney, carefully watching the medical staff's every move.
Moments later, in what appeared to be a miraculous recovery, the patient pulled an intravenous tube from his arm and sat up.
"Thanks," he said, "I'm feeling much better."
The "patient" was taking part in a fake emergency, staged to give the visiting middle and high school students an idea of what the struggle to save lives can be in the ER.
The doctor who played the patient role should probably stick to his day job.
"It surprised me at first but then I saw his facial expression and I knew it wasn't real," said Verdugo Hills High School junior Mignon Lincoln, one of 750 students from 13 Valley schools at Olive View Tuesday for the hospital's fifth annual Health Career Day.
"That was cool though," Mignon admitted. "I really enjoyed it."
The staged emergency was perhaps the most dramatic episode in the students' extensive tour of Olive View. With medical school students and hospital interns as their guides, 51 separate groups saw everything from operating rooms to maintenance facilities.
The event was designed to expose students to the various career options within the health care profession, and to give them information about health issues ranging from HIV to cancer treatment, said Dr. Vena Ricketts, assistant chief of emergency medicine.
"We try to make this a dynamic experience, where the students get to participate in a hands-on way," Ricketts said. "We want to let them know that there are a lot of options out there and they can be whatever they want to be."
After the emergency was defused, the ER staff gave a quick lesson in incubating patients. They encouraged the students to hone their techniques on medical school dummies.
"That was a great idea," said Columbus Middle School eighth-grader Nelo Kator, who said she'd one day like to be an emergency-room doctor.
"It was very entertaining, but we also learned what it's like to really do it."