Red Cross training in action: A lifesaving moment

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.

Michael Parks, Regional Executive of the Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross, Alexis Starnes, Rachel D’Attoma, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley

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.

Michael Parks, Regional Executive of the Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross, Erin Hosek, American Red Cross Instructor for the Girl Scouts of America, Alexis Starnes, Rachel D’Attoma, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley

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.

Help stop the bleed to save a life

By Sam Puldeski, American Red Cross volunteer

Did you know that someone with a serious injury can experience life-threatening blood loss within as little as five minutes? When someone is injured and severely bleeding, it is imperative that bystanders help to quickly stop the blood loss.

The American Red Cross has some tips and information to follow if someone around you is experiencing a life-threatening loss of blood.

  • A half can of soda is the approximate amount of blood loss that is life
    threatening in an adult. For children and infants, the amount is
    proportionately less.
  • If blood is flowing continuously, squirting or pooling, take action
    immediately with these steps.
    a. Call 911.
    b. Ask someone to find a bleeding control kit, which should include
    items like gloves, gauze and a tourniquet.
    c. Apply the tourniquet and wait for the medical professionals to arrive.
    – If the injury is in on the head or torso, apply direct pressure
    with your hands or knee using gloves if they are available.
  • If you don’t have a medical tourniquet on hand, apply direct pressure with
    your hands or knee. Research has shown that homemade or improvised
    tourniquets don’t work. It is recommended to use manufactured tourniquets
    over homemade options.

It’s important for everyone to know how to respond in these types of emergencies should they ever be in a situation when someone needs help. The Red Cross offers classes to help teach people of all ages how to respond in an emergency. Some classes offer online instruction while other classes can be found at a location near you.

You can sign up for a class (or two!) by visiting: https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/take-a-class.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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.