“I knew something wasn’t right”

10-month-old Drew Cohen

Corey Cohen didn’t think twice about putting her son, Drew, in his stroller with a handful of Cheerios. They were at the doctor’s office, and the 10-month-old was perfectly content to enjoy a snack while his mom chatted with the pediatrictian.

Suddenly, Drew began gagging. Corey lifted him from his stroller and noticed Drew was trying to cough but couldn’t.

“My ‘mommy mode’ kicked in, and I knew something wasn’t right,” she said.

Corey, who sits on the board of the American Red Cross in Union County, had been trained years ago in CPR and First Aid, but didn’t feel confident enough to tend to her choking son. She frantically handed Drew to the doctor, who placed the baby on her forearm and delivered several blows between his shoulder blades.

“We were both talking to him saying, ‘Breathe! Breathe!’” Corey recalled. “I can remember leaning down by him as the doctor was hitting his back and seeing the strained expression on his frozen face.”

Corey watched in horror as Drew’s entire body had begun changing color. After 30 seconds and no improvement, the doctor threw open the door and called for help.

“As the doctor stepped out into the hallway, I watched Drew’s limp, purple body flop over her forearm,” Corey said.

She remembers worrying about having to tell her 4-year-old daughter that Drew had passed. She remembers panicking at that thought because her children adore each other. She remembers wondering, “How could all this happen because of a Cheerio?”

Fortunately, after what Corey said seemed like hours, she heard the sweetest sound: Drew began to cry. He regained his color and reached for his mother’s embrace.

“I grabbed him up and hugged him, feeling like I was going to faint from relief,” Corey said.

While she was “a complete wreck” for the rest of the day, Corey decided she wanted to tell everyone about what happened to Drew so they would have the chance to prepare themselves for an emergency.

“I thought if it could save it just one child, it would obviously be worth it,” she said.

Corey organized an American Red Cross CPR class for people who hadn’t been trained or, like her, who needed a refresher.

“Choking is one of those things you are always aware of, especially with young children, but it’s also one of those things you think will never happen to you or your child,” she said. “To think someone could actually die from eating seems overwhelmingly unbelievable, but I now know that is completely the opposite. It’s very possible and very real.”

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How to Save a Life

Are you looking for a summer job? One that will be fun, meaningful, rewarding, and always in high demand? One that will put you in a position to actually save lives?

If so, consider becoming a lifeguard!

Lifeguards are responsible for the safety and rescue of people in a defined body of water, such as a swimming pool or a swimming area in a lake, as well as in the area immediately surrounding the body of water (the deck around a swimming pool or the beach next to a lake). Taking a page from the mission statement of the American Red Cross, the ultimate goal of a lifeguard is to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to (water-related) emergencies”.

Available to individuals 15 and older*, American Red Cross lifeguard training is – as it should be, considering lifeguards are literally guarding the lives of the children and adults at their swimming venue – extensive and comprehensive. Class participants are taught CPR/AED, First Aid, surveillance and rescue skills, and risk management through videos, group discussions, and hands-on practice both in and out of the swimming pool. Participants are also required to pass three separate swimming challenges, as only strong swimmers are eligible to become lifeguards.

My sister became a lifeguard the MINUTE she turned 16. She began working as a lifeguard one month later, and now, 14 years later, she still lifeguards and teaches swimming lessons every summer. (She’s an elementary school teacher, which allows her to spend her summers at the pool.) She’s gone on to become an American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor, Water Safety Instructor, and Instructor Trainer, and has made a life and a living out of teaching children how to swim and keeping both children and adults safe when they enjoy time in the water.

So if spending the summer helping people prevent, prepare for, and respond to water-related emergencies sounds like your cup of tea, consider becoming certified as an American Red Cross lifeguard and pursing a job at your swimming pool or beach.

To find lifeguarding classes, swim lessons, or water safety instructor courses in your area, contact your local aquatic facility and ask them about their Red Cross training courses OR contact your local Red Cross Aquatics Representative.

*Tweens and teens between the ages of nine and 15 can train to become junior lifeguards, a position that allows them to learn from and work with experienced lifeguards in preparation for eventually receiving their lifeguard certification.

We are halfway through Red Cross Month!

As you’ve likely heard by now, March is Red Cross Month. The annual Presidential Proclamation highlights the month in a way that allows the organization to publicly thank Americans for their past support, promote existing Red Cross programs and services, and recruit new volunteers and blood donors.

If you’re anything like most people, you probably haven’t followed through – at least not 100% – on your New Year’s Resolutions. Perhaps you resolved to start volunteering, or to donate blood more regularly, or to finally take that CPR class…and now here it is March, and you still haven’t signed up for an orientation, made an appointment to donate, or registered for the class.

What are you waiting for?

Don’t let the month of March – a perfect opportunity to finally act on those resolutions – pass you by without taking a step toward getting involved with the American Red Cross as a volunteer, blood donor, or class participant.

Here are the basics:

  • If you’d like to donate blood, visit our blood donation website and enter your zip code. You’ll be immediately directed to a page listing all of the upcoming blood drives in your area. Follow the instructions to schedule an appointment online and then show up – it’s that easy!
  • If you’d like to volunteer, click on the link to your chapter’s website, and then on the heading on the chapter’s homepage that reads, “Volunteer”. (Each chapter’s website is slightly different, but all will have links on their homepages with similar – if not identical – headings.) You’ll be volunteering before you know it! You can also call your local chapter to get information on volunteering.
  • If you’d like to take a class, enter your zip code here.
  • If you’d like to donate money, visit our donation page at redcross.org to see a variety of ways to donate.
  • If you’d like to become a Red Cross Hero, sign up to help fundraise here.

So, what are you waiting for?

Two Gastonia employees put first aid skills to work

Pictured (from left): Chuck Bridger, community executive at the American Red Cross; Red Valve employee Netha Robbins; Ann Holt, Red Cross Nurses Aid Training manager; Red Valve employee Suzette Wilson; and Ben Payne, Red Valve plant manager.

The Gaston County Chapter of the American Red Cross recently awarded two local Red Valve employees with Certificates of Merit, which are the highest awards given by the Red Cross to an individual who sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross course.

In January this year, Stella Holland arrived at work at Red Valve in Gastonia, complaining of chest pain. Thanks to the quick-thinking and skills of co-workers Netha Robbins and Suzette Wilson, Stella received the care and attention she needed.

Netha and Suzette Wilson called 911 and provided care – including utilizing an automated external defibrillator – until emergency medical help arrived. 

“We are thrilled that Netha and Suzette were able to put their Red Cross skills to good use and help Stella in her time of need,” said Chuck Bridger, local Red Cross community executive. “Situations like this illustrate the importance of being trained in CPR and first aid skills.”

Red Valve has been utilizing Red Cross CPR training for 12 years and has eight dedicated first responders in its plant.

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Caldwell County PE teachers brush up on CPR skills

Moira Brookshire, from South Caldwell High School, does a finger sweep of a mannequin during CPR training.

On Monday morning, American Red Cross instructors trained nearly 40 physical education teachers in CPR and First Aid.

Instructors from South Caldwell High, Hibriten and William Lenoir Middle schools (among others) became certified in life-saving skills.

Jon Gragg, teacher at William Lenoir Middle School, performs chest compressions on a mannequin during CPR training.

“We are thrilled to be able to train our local teachers in CPR because having that skill is so vital,” said Suzan Anderson, local Red Cross community executive. “These teachers are trusted with students on a daily basis, and they are empowered with life-saving knowledge.”

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Day after First Aid demonstration on TV, Red Cross instructor puts skills to use!

Barbara Brant

Barbara Brant, a Red Cross instructor for the last 25 years, happily agreed to be featured on WCNC’s Charlotte Today program on Tuesday. She walked through First Aid and CPR for infants, demonstrating how the everyday person can save a life. 

The next day, on Wednesday, Barbara found herself in a situation where she had to put her skills to use. She was out to lunch with some Red Cross colleagues. On her way back to the office, she saw an ice cream truck engulfed in smoke.

Barbara and her peers pulled over, and they found the driver standing outside the vehicle talking on the phone. They ensured that first reponders had been called and proceeded to administer First Aid.

“He was sweating profusely, shaking and told me he had a history of a heart condition,” Barbara said. “He had inhaled some of the smoke fumes as well.”

She helped the driver into her air-conditioned vehicle and loosened his shirt. She began to wipe him down with a damp towel.

“His breathing became shallow and fast, his eyes got a glassy stare and his skin color began to get a grayish color,” Barbara recalled, noting his heartbeat was irregular.  She continued to wipe him down, encouraged him to take deep breaths and exhale them slowly.

Gradually, the driver began to breathe normally and his skin color began to stabilize.  When the EMT  arrived on the scene and checked him out, his vitals were back in the normal range and his heart rate was no longer irregular.

The driver remained in the vehicle until he felt he could safely walk with Barbara’s assistance back  to the police vehicle and remained there until someone from his company could pick him up.

 “With the right training, anyone can help during an emergency,” Barabara said. “Situations like this are exactly why it’s important for everyone to get trained in First Aid and CPR.”

Get trained today!

Red Cross Experts Reviewing the New CPR Guidelines

You might have heard this week that the American Heart Association (AHA) released new guidelines on performing CPR – specifically stating that new research has shown that you can start compressions immediately and that rescue breaths are optional.

We at the American Red Cross learned of the new CPR guidelines when everyone else did yesterday, so our experts are busy today reviewing this new research to determine an official stance. Hang tight and watch our website and this blog for their conclusions this week.

The American Red Cross has conducted an initial review of the recent changes to the ECCU 2010 guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care and does not plan to make any substantial changes to our courses as a result of these new guidelines. We are continuing with a more thorough review of the science behind the guidelines and may institute subtle changes in the future if they are warranted.

While we support the use of the hands-only technique by bystanders, full CPR with chest compressions and rescue breaths is still best for many people, including children, adolescents, drowning victims, or people who collapse due to breathing problems. Health care professionals, such as doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs and workplace responders should continue to be certified in full CPR.

In the meantime, please note that the American Red Cross does support the use of hands-only CPR for cardiac emergencies which occur outside of a health care setting. Arming yourself with knowledge of hands-only CPR could be effective if you find yourself in a bystander role during an emergency. You can leap into action like CPR cat and save a life by getting trained.