Monday, December 19, 2011

The Heroes Among Us

Most people don’t set out to be heroes. Their day starts out like any other day, but somewhere along the way, an incident happens and they respond. Sometimes these heroes-to-be have taken time from their busy lives to become trained to save a life if faced with such a choice. Most say they don’t consider themselves heroes. But they are heroes, and the world is a better place because of them.

It was my pleasure to be among more than a thousand attendees at the 2011 Real Heroes Breakfast held at the Tulalip Resort Casino, sponsored by the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross. In addition to a delicious breakfast, the morning was filled with moving, heartrending stories of real heroes, of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Pat Cashman emceed the event with his unique style and brought levity to the sometimes teary stories. It was an uplifting morning and the annual event has become a “won’t miss” on my calender.

Following are this year’s amazing stories. All these honored heroes live in Snohomish County Chapter’s jurisdiction.

DALE ASCHENBRENNER, a water inspector for Snohomish County PUD, was on his way to work, when through the fog he saw tail lights coming from a large swamp off the side of the road. He turned his vehicle around and as he got closer saw a woman’s hand waving out the window and heard her screaming, “I can’t swim!” Dale called 911, flagged down another car, got a tow rope from his vehicle and waded into the muddy waters. Just as he pulled the woman through the window, the car slid completely under water. He carried the woman through the water and up the hill, wrapped her in a blanket offered by a passerby, and they sat in Dale’s PUD vehicle until the paramedics arrived.

MELISSA KEATING: For some time Melissa had thought it would be wonderful to be able to save someone’s life through an organ donation. In good health, the timing was right for her to act on her heart’s desire. She contacted the University of Washington and began the process of becoming an anonymous kidney donor. The surgery was successfully performed. Melissa doesn’t know the person who received her kidney, but she has the satisfaction of knowing she made a difference in someone’s life.

GERRY ERVINE / BRANDON KLOES: A group of friends play Ultimate Frisbee at Garfield Park in North Everett twice a week at lunchtime. During their game, one of the players suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed on the field. Gerry and Brandon immediately began CPR, alerting other players to call 911. EMT’s arrived within minutes and, after administering shocks from their Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), transported him to the hospital. Gerry and Brandon had the skills to successfully perform CPR and because of their quick action were able to save their teammate’s life.

JOANNE VANLEUVEN: As JoAnne climbed out of her car and gathered materials for her day-care kids to make mother’s day gifts, she realized she didn’t have arm space to grab her purse, so she left it in the car. A co-worker noticed a thief carrying JoAnne’s purse away. While the co-worker called 911, JoAnne followed the thief. Physically fit, she hoofed it down a path through the woods to a motel parking lot. The thief slipped around a corner and disappeared into one of the upstairs units. JoAnne waited for police and told them approximately where the “two-bit thug” was. The policemen were able to recover her purse and arrest the thief as well as another man wanted on warrants.

OFFICER BRENDA GREENMUN had just completed a traffic stop when she observed a woman high above I-5, trying to climb over the railing of an overpass. After calling dispatch and asking for backup, Officer Greenmun walked toward the woman. The woman shaped her hand like a gun and gestured that she wanted the officer to shoot her. She was attempting suicide. They were able to save that woman’s life, but also prevented what could have been a fatal traffic accident had the woman been successful in jumping into the busy eight-lane freeway below.

DAVID ROBINSON and his three-year-old granddaughter Angel have a special bond. David had taken Angel to a swim lesson and then were going to a restaurant for dinner. As David carried his granddaughter across an intersection, he was struck by an SUV making a right-hand turn. At the moment of impact, Robinson lifted his granddaughter above his head to protect her from being hit. When they crashed to the street, Angel landed on top of him. With his body breaking her fall, Angel suffered only a bruise on her bottom. David’s injuries were severe with a fractured skull, two broken legs, internal damage and a fracture to a bone around the eye socket.

ED GRAVES, a Port of Everett part-time Security Officer, heard a 911 call that a vehicle had driven into the water at a boat ramp. Just as he arrived and saw a mini-van bobbing in the water, another car sped past him, sliding down the slick ramp several feet into the water. Ed thought, “This can’t be happening.” He quickly looked around, expecting to see lights and find himself in the middle of a movie scene. As the driver of the second vehicle pulled himself out of his vehicle, he yelled, “My parents are in the sinking van!” Ed helped the man ashore and together they approached the parent’s van as its front sank deeper and its rear-end bobbed on the surface. Together they used Ed’s “access tools” to break the rear window of the mini-van and pull the elderly couple to safety, just as the van completely submerged. The son and his parents were meeting at a restaurant for dinner and the son, following his parents, was giving his father driving directions. Instead of turning right, the man turned left and into the water. The son followed, at first not realizing they were driving into water.

CHAD DECROW / JORDAN LAPIER / CHRIS WALTER: Zamboni driver Chad, security personnel Jordan, and hockey team trainer Chris came to the aid of a heart attack victim during a recreational hockey league game. They immediately put their CPR/AED training into action using the arena’s defibrillator. The 56-year old man was revived and the three men took turns administering CPR until paramedics arrived. These heroes proved that quick action, proper training and willingness to act saves lives.

BENJAMIN KING / BEKAH STAUDACHER: While best friends Bekah and April Lutz’s put on makeup in the Snohomish High School girl’s bathroom, a fellow 10th grade student attacked the two, stabbing April more than a dozen times and slashing Bekah’s arm. Bekah ran outside the bathroom to call for help, then returned to the bathroom to help her friend. Classmate Benjamin ran inside the bathroom, saw April slumped to the floor, covered in blood. He held her in his arms and pressed paper towels to her wounds until paramedics arrived. These two students put themselves in harm’s way to save a fellow student’s life.

SNOHOMISH FIRE & RESCUE, called to Snohomish High School with the stabbing incident, were a critical part of April’s amazing survival. Their first instinct was to call for a helicopter that would have carried her to Harborview Medical Center, the region’s trauma hospital. But they quickly decided April would not survive the flight and instead rushed her in an emergency response vehicle to Everett’s Providence Regional Medical Center. Paramedics worked to keep the girl’s heart beating en route and delivered her to the emergency room 24 minutes after they reached her.

PROVIDENCE TRAUMA TEAM made the difference between life and death for stabbing victim April. When she was wheeled into the emergency room, she had only a 20 percent chance of survival. One of the stab wounds to her heart came close to being fatal. April’s heart stopped three times. In all, six doctors operated on April. Between these dedicated doctors and April’s own incredible will to live, she survived. April and those many heroes who worked to save her life received a standing ovation at the Real Heroes Breakfast.


Eunice Boeve said...

Great stories of the heroes among us. Enjoyed reading them.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Wonderful stories, Mary. Thanks for sharing them.

Happy Holidays,