Courage in the face of adversity

By Ryan Lang, Red Cross Volunteer

One of the definitions of courage you’ll find in the Oxford Dictionary is “strength in the face of pain or grief.”

Most people can say they’ve exhibited courage at least a few times in their life. Not as many can say that every day for the past year, just simply facing the day has been an act of courage.

Lynn Decker, Wadsworth School District Head Nurse

If you asked Lynn Decker about it, she’d probably tell you that was an overstatement. But after hearing her story about her fight against breast cancer and her unwavering commitment to the students and staff of the Wadsworth City School District, there was no question that Lynn embodied the true meaning of courage.

Lynn is the District Nurse for Wadsworth City Schools. She’s been a nurse for a long time, working in the ICU at Summa Akron City Hospital for more than a decade. In 2014, Lynn joined the district and the world of school nursing. “I thought it was just Band-Aids and ice packs; no big deal,” she said of the job, but as she quickly found, it was a lot more than that. It was much more critical care than she’d first anticipated, which Lynn says was a good thing, as that’s been her “bread and butter” throughout her career.

As the head of eight school nurses, Lynn says she quickly realized that there were several “areas of improvement” that needed to be addressed, one of those being CPR training. “I decided to get my certificate over at the Red Cross to become a certified instructor so I could help employees here, and also train coaches and administrators in CPR.”

June 22, 2018. Washington, DC. CPR stock photos by Roy Cox for the American Red Cross.

Throughout her years in the Wadsworth School District, Lynn trained dozens of her fellow employees in CPR, but only recently started training 8th grade students as well. “We realized how important it is for kids of a young age to learn CPR, and actually found that they are much easier to teach.” And they’re interested in learning, Lynn says: “They love it! They get super excited when we’re coming in with the mannequins and the mock AED machines and more.”  

And then, a setback.

It was about a year ago that Lynn was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in the middle of a pandemic, no less. “When the entire world is shutting down and you’re worried about hospital care and being able to get your surgery and your chemo, but still being part of running the district.” In spite of the diagnosis and facing a double mastectomy, Lynn still was concerned about her students and her staff in Wadsworth. “People still have to be taken care of and we need to be sure that our students and our faculty are safe.”

After finishing her chemo treatments and her surgery in May, Lynn was visiting her parents’ home for a small get together at their pool in the backyard a little more than a month later, in July last year. A neighbor had fallen into the pool and gone under the water. Without regard for herself and how she was feeling after her treatments, Lynn deployed her Red Cross training and did everything she could to help that family friend.

Unfortunately, there was no helping that friend. He eventually passed away. It was an experience Lynn says she’ll never forget and a real world reminder of how important her training is and how important it is that she pass along what she learned through the Red Cross.

Today, Lynn’s treatments continue. And Lynn continues to provide an invaluable, potentially life-saving skill set to her colleagues and her students alike. Additionally, she’s become an advocate for early and regular health screenings and now helps others in similar situations as hers face their diagnoses head on, with strength and with courage.

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