By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer and board member
Anyone who’s received CPR and AED training through the American Red Cross will tell you they hope to never have to use it, but knowing it’s there just in case is comforting.
Stow-Munroe Falls High School graduate Alexis Starnes would tell you that she’s grateful for the knowledge and training she received during her time as a Girl Scout and on December 30th, 2021 that training helped save the life of a small child.
That day, Alexis was working at the Small Steps Big Strides Childcare center in Stow as part of a real world work experience program through her school. She was feeding a 7-month-old girl baby food when the child stopped responding. “She stopped making noise and she wasn’t moving,” Alexis recalled during a recent interview with American Red Cross Regional Communications Director Jim McIntyre. Thanks to her Red Cross training, Alexis immediately recognized that these were signs that the child was choking. That’s when she unstrapped the child from her chair and began administering back blows, just like she learned in training.
Alexis was able to dislodge the food that was obstructing the baby’s airway. She saved the child’s life – something Alexis says she could have never done without her CPR and AED training from the Red Cross.
On June 8th, 2022, during the Lifesaving Award Program, Alexis was honored with the Certificate of Merit – the highest honor given by the Red Cross that is signed by the President of the United States. The award is given to someone who embodies the spirit of the Red Cross by using action to help alleviate human suffering in the face of an emergency. On that day, December 30th, 2021, that is exactly what Alexis did.
Red Cross CPR and AED instructor and Girl Scout troop leader Erin Hosek, who taught Alexis her lifesaving skills, was also awarded the Lifesaving Instructor Award. After receiving her award, Erin pointed out that of her entire graduating Girl Scout troop, Alexis was the only one who chose to renew her certification two years after she had received her initial training. “And I’m glad she did,” Erin said, adding how proud she is of Alexis for using those lifesaving skills that day.
Alexis is continuing her education at Stark State University in the fall and will pursue a career in childcare. As for the young child Alexis saved, she says the girl still regularly attends the childcare facility in Stow and is a very happy and healthy baby.
Today, June 7th marks the end of National CPR and AED Awareness Week. What . . . you don’t even know what AED is? It stands for Automated External Defibrillator – more commonly seen as the paddles that doctors, nurses or paramedics use to resuscitate someone whose heart has stopped pumping. But you, too, could quickly learn to use them to save someone’s life.
As more businesses, recreation centers, swimming pools, movie theaters, etc., have AEDs available, wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to use them? Through American Red Cross-sponsored classes, you can, and in just one class.
I took a CPR and AED class at the Red Cross headquarters in downtown Cleveland last year, and it was a fun and easy refresher for the courses I had taken three years earlier. (They suggest every two years for refreshers — my bad.)
A series of related classes can be taken individually or combined, pertaining to your needs. Some people need certification for construction job site requirements, while others might need it for school, but there are class combinations for everyone. CPR and AED are ideally taken together.
Online-only classes can be found here, but I’d highly suggest combining online and in-person courses – referred to as blended learning. Visit redcross.org/take-a-class and then input your desired location and select CPR or AED. You’ll likely find over 100 choices of classes.
A recent CPR/AED student, Steve Riv explained it this way: “I was worried it would be more video instruction and not so much hands-on. I actually really ended up loving the video modules, followed by the in-class instruction. Our instructor was very articulate in explaining the CPR and AED procedures. And, yes, you do get to practice with a “dummy.” I think that the instructor made something that can be mundane an enjoyable and memorable experience.”
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.
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.”
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.
A police officer who administered first aid for the victim of a gunshot and five members of the Richmond Heights Fire Department have been honored with the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action.
On July 24th, they helped save the life of a young man who had accidentally shot himself in the leg. Patrolman Sean Lawlor arrived on scene and helped apply tourniquets and pressure to the wound.
Shortly thereafter, arriving on the scene were fire lieutenant John Boos and firefighters Thomas Fanara, Michael Kocmit, Kevin Moore and Richard Rousch, all of whom provided life-saving treatment and emergency ambulance transportation to the hospital.
The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is awarded to individuals who step up in an emergency situation and help save or sustain a life. Such action exemplifies the mission of the Red Cross – to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.
Lieutenant Boos credited the others for their actions.
“It was a great job by the members on the shift that day to get in there and effectively help with what Patrolman Lawler initiated and continue the same care end expedite the transport to the emergency room in a timely fashion.”
The firefighters credited officer Lawler with doing a great job as the first on the scene, saying he “really stole the show.”
The patrolman called it a team effort, crediting other officers on the scene as well.
Red Cross Regional COO Jorge Martinez, who conducted the virtual ceremony, commended the winners for their willingness to help others in distress.
“Heroes are all around us,” Martinez said. “But they are not common—because to act quickly and decisively during a crisis takes a level of courage reserved only for a chosen few.”
Heroes are all around us. But they are not common because to act quickly and decisively during a crisis takes a level of courage reserved only for a chosen few. On September 30 the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was honored to virtually recognize one man who exemplifies this kind of courage.
On June 5, 2021, during the Macedonia SummerFest 5K, John Doyle, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Macedonia, Ohio was doing a walk-thru clearing of trails at Longwood Park. A man who had passed him a minute prior was face down on the trail. John immediately radioed for EMS and approached the downed runner. He performed multiple rounds of CPR. During the third round, two police officers arrived to connect an AED. Shortly after, EMS arrived with another AED and LUCAS device. The man regained a pulse and was breathing when he was transported to the hospital.
For this act, John was awarded the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award. This is one of the highest awards given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. The certificate John received bears the signature of the President and CEO of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross.
When asked to share his thoughts about his award, John was quick to point out, “It was a team effort and I’m thankful for all the people who helped save his life.”
The lifesaving awards program has its roots as far back as 1911, to provide recognition to those who, in a time of an emergency, use their lifesaving skills or knowledge to save or sustain a life. The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders was created to accurately demonstrate true appreciation to those who use Red Cross skills and knowledge as part of their day-to-day job responsibilities. Since 2018, we have honored nearly 800 individuals worldwide who have helped to save almost 350 lives.
The Red Cross hopes that John’s heroic actions will inspire others to get trained in skills that help save lives. The Red Cross offers a variety of classes, including online options. Learn more and sign up today!
Earlier in 2021, a Richmond Heights police sergeant received a lifesaving award from the Red Cross. Read more about it here.
Do you know someone who used their Red Cross training to help save a life? Nominate your hero for a Lifesaving Award at www.lifesavingawards.org.
National Good Neighbor Day is September 28, a day that celebrates our neighbors and encourages us to get to know our community better. Neighbors look out for one another and help each other out.
Good Neighbor Day was created in the 1970s in Lakeside, Montana, and President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed the day, saying: “Understanding, love and respect build cohesive families and communities. The same bonds cement our nation and the nations of the world. For most of us, this sense of community is nurtured and expressed in our neighborhoods where we give each other an opportunity to share and feel part of a larger family.”
Neighbors extend past the individuals who share a common wall or property line. At the American Red Cross, our communities are our neighbors. Whether they are next door or beyond, the Red Cross works to help and support individuals who are in need—after a disaster, when a blood donation is needed or preparing before the next disaster strikes.
This Good Neighbor Day, there are many ways you can give back to your Northern Ohio neighbors through the Red Cross.
Donate. There are different ways you can make a financial contribution to support the work of the Red Cross, both in your local community and around the world.
Give Blood. Donating blood is a simple thing you can do to help save lives. Blood donations help people going through cancer treatment, having surgery, who have chronic illnesses and those who experience traumatic injuries. The Red Cross holds blood drives across Northern Ohio every week. You can find and sign up for an upcoming blood drive here.
Volunteer. 90% of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available right here in our area. You can learn more and apply to be a volunteer in Northern Ohio here.
Learn a Lifesaving Skill. The Red Cross has been teaching emergency and safety training for more than a century. You can learn first aid, be trained in administering CPR or using an AED, to be prepared for when a need for these skills arises. You can review and sign up for a class here.
There are endless possibilities of ways you can be a good neighbor and help give back to the community. You never know how one small act of kindness can impact a neighbor near you.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
Awarded Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action
Sergeant Greg Patterson of the Richmond Heights police department was the first to respond, after a disturbing call to 9-1-1 about a baby who had stopped breathing.
“When I received the call, my first thought was to get there as quickly as possible,” said Sergeant Patterson. “When I arrived, the mother ran out the front door and handed the baby to me. When I saw that his face was blue and he wasn’t breathing, my training kicked in.”
He then described the actions he took to bring the baby back.
“I sat down on a chair on the front porch and began chest compressions,” he said. “I then turned the baby over and gave him a few back blows.” That’s when the infant began to respond, as he coughed up some mucous that Sergeant Patterson wiped away.
“I could see that he was starting to breathe again. When I saw the color coming back into his face, I was beyond relieved.”
Sergeant Patterson has been awarded a Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action, which is given to those who step up in an emergency situation and help save or sustain a life. “Sergeant Patterson’s actions exemplify the mission of the American Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “He is to be commended for his willingness to help others in distress.”
Sergeant Patterson was honored during the June, 2021 meeting of the board of directors of the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. He was accompanied by his wife and daughter, along with Chief Thomas Wetzel, Lieutenant Denise DeBiase, and Records Clerk Latrice Evans, who submitted the lifesaving award nomination.
The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is one of three awards bestowed by the Red Cross for lifesaving actions. The Certificate of Merit is the highest award given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course.
The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is given to an individual, or team of individuals, who saves or sustains a life, outside of a medical setting, as part of their employment or while on duty and had an obligation to respond.
If you know someone who may qualify for a Red Cross Lifesaving Award, you can nominate that individual or group by using this online form. And you can visit LifesavingAwards.org to learn more.
Sergeant Patterson doesn’t think he acted any differently than any of his fellow officers would have acted when responding to that call.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Sergeant Patterson said. “I just happened to be the one to get there first. I am very grateful that I was able to be there to help.”
Consider taking a class this CPR and AED Awareness Week
By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer
In the U.S., over 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside of hospitals each year. Many of the roughly 10% who survive do so because someone performed CPR or used an automated external defibrillator (AED) within the first few minutes. Since the first week of June is National CPR and AED Awareness Week, we urge you to consider learning these lifesaving skills.
CPR and AEDs are effective, especially when performed by a bystander before emergency medical personnel can arrive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that, if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.
Similarly, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that a bystander using an AED increased the likelihood of survival to 67% whereas waiting for EMS to shock the heart only had a 43% survival rate. The NIH also found survival with minimal disability is much greater when a bystander used an AED (57%, versus 33% when initiated by EMS). The NIH estimates 1,700 lives are saved in the U.S .each year by bystanders using an AED.
I spoke with Philip Coffin, American Red Cross instructor manager for our region, who has over 35 years of experience, 20 of them with the Red Cross. Philip spoke of the importance of acting quickly during a cardiac arrest. He said responding within the first four minutes is critical, as the odds of survival dramatically decrease after that. Every minute you lose, he said, the lower your chances of making it back.
Philip spoke especially highly of AED devices. As cardiac arrests are usually electric events, he said, it takes a shock to restart the heart, which an AED provides. In such cases, CPR keeps the brain alive until the shock can be administered.
CPR/AED training is vitally important, then, and the Red Cross excels at providing it, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Philip said he is deeply proud of his team, who stuck it out, understood they were providing a mission-critical service, and continued training frontline workers.
If interested, CPR, AED, and first aid training and certification courses are available. Many are tailored to the needs of workplace responders, professional rescuers, school staff, healthcare providers, and the public. Several courses are OSHA compliant.
To ensure safety during the pandemic, some classes are in instructor-led classroom settings following health guidelines, while others offer a blend of online training with an in-class skills session. New, innovative ideas are also in development.
The 25th annual Acts of Courage, featuring the H. Peter Burg Community Leadership & Spirit of the Red Cross awards was not the norm this year, but what has been? Nonetheless, on March 4, 2021, courage and recognition did not stop! Due to precautionary measures during COVID-19, the annual honorees made history streaming virtually together for this edition. It is regarded as the greatest celebrated acts of courage, compassion, character and humility in which the American Red Cross proudly honors our region’s deserving recipients each year.
Seven individuals captured Acts of Courage through reactive giving.
Dustin Nist – a Kent State business management student was returning home when he witnessed a car plunge into the Tuscarawas River near the Clinton fire station. He broke a window of the sinking car with a railroad tie after seeing an older woman with water up to her neck in a desperate situation. “I was talking to the lady, letting her know it’s alright,” before responders were able to extract the woman from the car with only minor injuries. He remains modest and said he was acting out of instinct and only glad he could help. Watch Dustin’s story here.
Yamil Encarnacion –a Twinsburg police officer, earned praise after he crawled into an overturned car in the eastbound lane of I-480 to rescue a 4-year-old child pinned in a car seat after an end over end traffic accident. The little girl’s legs were losing color, so officer Encarnacion jumped into action, crawling into the wreckage, cutting the child free. “I remember seeing an officer carrying my daughter, then he went back for my son and there was just blood all over his arms,” according to Emma Johnson, the mother. She says she will never forget what officer Encarnacion did for her and her family. Watch Yamil’s story here.
Richard Santucci & Jim Shepherd – On February 2, 2020, while at work at Nordson Xaloy Inc. in Austintown, Jim Shepherd helped save a life. A man lost consciousness, fell to the ground and began to have a seizure. Jim immediately assessed the man and alerted his team of the escalated incident. Richard Santucci also came to the man’s aid with an AED. Richard began to perform CPR while administering shocks to the gentleman until EMS arrived on scene. The skills learned in the Red Cross Training Services course helped to save the life of this man. Watch Richard and Jim’s story here.
Clarissa Gagne –a journalist with the Akron Beacon Journal, recounts when Clarissa was pregnant with her daughter, she learned CPR as part of her parenting classes. “It’s one of those skills you learn, and you pray you never have to use it.” But the second-grade teacher did so eight years later. Clarissa’s neighbor had collapsed in front of her when she and several neighbors rushed to help. “It was really a whole neighborhood event,” she said. One person called 911, while another watched the woman’s family. Each link in the chain—the person giving CPR, the 911 caller, the dispatcher, the paramedic, the hospital worker, worked together. Watch Clarissa’s story here.
Natalie Weisler – The Portage County 7-year-old woke up at home early Sunday morning November 8, while her parents and brother were still asleep, she went into the living room to watch television. Only a short time had passed before she heard a startling crash from the kitchen. Upon investigating, she found the breezeway in flames. Remaining calm, Natalie woke her parents and older brother to get out safely. Though the damages were extensive, she was brave under pressure and as her father, Justin Weisler, boldly stated, his daughter simply saved their lives. Watch Natalie’s story here.
Joanne White – The 80-year-old suffers from multiple health issues and has been confined to her Boardman home since March 2020, due to COVID-19. Rather than feeling sorry for herself, she began making masks. She made a bundle of masks weekly in all different fabrics, styles and seasonal designs to distribute to anyone who needed them. On a fixed income and never asking for any money or credit to buy materials, she only wanted to make people smile. She cannot imagine making money off those who may not have the means for something so important. Joanne has has made over 1,200 masks and has shipped them all over the country, essentially “covering” our community. Watch Joanne’s story here.
2021 Peter H. Burg Community Leadership Award – Honorees of this year’s philanthropic legacy award are an inspired couple who have embraced their adopted hometown, Nick and Cindy Browning. Nick is the president of Huntington National Bank and Huntington-Akron Foundation. Nick engages leaders, colleagues, customers and communities in improving the lives of families. Cindy is a dedicated community volunteer, having retired after a 35-year nursing career. Her passion for Hospice of Summa and Grace House Akron continues as she serves as a volunteer member and coordinator on the capital and policy committees. The couple’s past work includes youth, health, nonprofit and many other community projects. They were honored for the difference they make in the lives of those in our communities.
The 2021 Spirit of the Red Cross Award Winners – Through their success in the automotive industry, Greg and Alice Greenwood and their family of companies have become synonymous in the Mahoning Valley with devotion for over 36 years. The Greenwoods serve by following the core values the Greenwood dealerships were built upon: Respect, Trust, Honestly, Loyalty and Professionalism. The Greenwood family and its dealership teams are agents for philanthropy and community contribution by supporting the Red Cross in Youngstown, where Greg was an active board member and speaker. Their dealerships support many diverse organizations and events, including local schools, youth clubs, family healthcare and nonprofits. The Greenwood family and dealerships follow the example that Greg and Alice set in raising their three children, with selflessness and generosity.
Thank you to all the deserving award winners for placing others first and, like the Red Cross, being there when help is needed. You, too, can be a local hero. If you are interested in volunteering or to learn more about what caring folks and the Red Cross do on an ongoing basis, visit redcross.org.
Edited By: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer
By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio
January 20, 2021- Have you ever wanted to get CPR and AED training, but you thought you would never have an opportunity to use your training to save a life? Well, hopefully today’s post will change your mind.
On January 11, 2020, while working during an indoor track meet at the Stile Athletic Field House, a spectator in the stands began to experience chest pains.
John and Kalie quickly responded to the aid of the gentleman. Instantly their Red Cross training kicked in as they delivered breath and chest compressions and administered an AED, until first responders were able to arrive to assist.
Thanks to the quick thinking and responsiveness of John and Kalie, the spectator survived and made a full recovery.
During a virtual ceremony last week, the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley presented John and Kalie with the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders, the highest award given to an individual, or team of individuals, who saves or sustains a life, outside of a medical setting, as part of their employment or while on duty.
“I am always amazed when someone takes the wherewithal to act. That is the hardest step,” stated Phil Ormandy, American Red Cross Training Services, during the presentation. “I am very proud of you [John and Kalie] and thankful that you put your training in action to save a life.”
“Thankfully John and Kalie were at the right place at the right time. I am proud of them and the University of Akron for holding these trainings,” said Max Elder, John and Kalie’s coworker, who nominated them for the award.
The American Red Cross offers training programs in various areas from first aid, CPR, AED administration, water safety, babysitting and more. Learn more about Red Cross lifesaving courses here.