TULALIP — After saving people from health crises, a fire, choking and a swimming emergency, local heroes were to be honored Thursday for selfless acts and service to community. The 2017 American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, at Tulalip Resort Casino, is a fundraising event to help support the Red Cross serving Snohomish County.
Commitment to Community: Chief Ed Hartin, Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue
Chief Ed Hartin, of Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue, remembers arriving at cardiac arrest calls and finding that bystanders didn’t know how to help.
“Now it is uncommon for us to arrive and not have somebody doing CPR or attempting to do CPR,” Hartin said.
For about seven years, Hartin has championed the causes of CPR training for everyone and public access to automatic external defibrillators (AEDs).
“We’ve told people we will come teach you hands-on CPR and how to use an AED — anytime, anywhere. One student, two students, 100 students, 500 students, whenever is convenient to them,” Hartin said.
Training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation has happened in homes and coffee shops, at the Coupeville Library and in the area’s schools. It’s important, Hartin said, because it can take medics up to 13 minutes to respond to calls on the island. If no one has started CPR, that can be too long.
Putting AEDs in public places is also part of the lifesaving effort. The easy-to-use devices have sensors to attach to the chest in possible cases of sudden cardiac arrest. If a shock is needed, the AED prompts the user on delivering it.
“Our goal is to have an AED within 500 feet of every place within the Coupeville business district,” Hartin said. His agency’s goal is to train at least 850 people in AED use and hands-only CPR each year.
It’s paying off.
When Gordon Coale went into cardiac arrest while bike riding on the island recently, three people stopped to perform CPR.
“It turned probably the most unlucky day of my life to the luckiest day of my life,” Coale said. “Having that kind of skill available in the community is going to save a lot of lives.”
Fire Rescue: Amanda Rockwell
Gold Bar’s Amanda Rockwell was asleep the day in April when a fire broke out in her neighbor’s home across the street. She was awakened by her grandmother’s screams about the fire.
Seeing black smoke and hearing yells from her neighbor, a man in his 50s, she ran across the street and through the man’s doorway. Through the smoke, she saw him just inside the door.
“I went and grabbed his hands and tried to pull on him, and he barely moved,” the 28-year-old Rockwell said. The smoke forced her outside, but she went in a couple of times more. Fire crews from Gold Bar, Sultan and Fire District 7 responded. By the time crews arrived, Rockwell had all but the man’s ankles out of the smoke and fire.
Snohomish County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Griner arrived soon after the fire crews. “It makes her the hero of that moment,” Griner said of Rockwell. “She had the wherewithal to put away her safety and go and help her neighbor.”
The man, who was flown to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, suffered burns to his torso and smoke inhalation.
Rockwell said her neighbor later learned how she had pulled him from danger. “He came over and gave me a big hug, and started crying and told me how thankful he was,” she said. Despite her fears that day, Rockwell couldn’t ignore a cry for help.
“There’s no way,” she said.
Youth Family Rescue: Annberly Sills
Annberly Sills was just 7 when she saw her little brother in danger and took action.
“I was in the kitchen and she started screaming for help,” said Annberly’s mom, Jessyei Sills. The Lynnwood mom thought maybe her little boy, Joseph, was pinching or biting his sister. “So I get in there — mom’s pace,” she said.
What she saw was Annberly, now 8, smacking not yet 2-year-old Joseph on his back. The tot was sprawled over Annberly’s legs. “And something comes out of his mouth,” Sills recalled.
Sills said her daughter told her, “Mommy, he’s choking.” The girl had a collection of eraser tops, and Joseph had one lodged in his throat.
Annberly said her parents taught her to do back blows, using a doll for practice, in case of a choking incident. “I just hit him on the back a lot,” the girl said.
Joseph is just fine, thanks to a big sister with some basic first-aid knowledge.
Workplace Rescue: Kelly McGill
From Snohomish County PUD worker to lifesaver, Kelly McGill made that transformation in a heartbeat.
McGill was at work as a PUD manager of real estate services when, from his office, he heard a shriek and a thump. Carol Biggs, a co-worker and friend, was on the floor.
The Stanwood man, who no longer works for the PUD, told a colleague to call 911 immediately, while asking another co-worker to contact the PUD’s safety department and get an AED.
McGill made sure Biggs wasn’t choking, then checked for a pulse. Finding a faint pulse that became undetectable, he asked the worker who had called 911 to let the dispatcher know that, and also that Biggs’ face was blue. Then he began CPR, which he had learned as a teenage lifeguard and relearned at work.
Biggs later recalled that when she came to, McGill was beside her “telling me that everyone was there for me and everything would be fine.”
McGill said he told her that she was at work, that she had fallen and was unconscious for a time. A seizure had stopped her heart. Biggs was grateful the incident happened at work. “Kelly was here, he knew CPR, and not only did he have the knowledge, but he had the willingness to jump in and help me,” she said.
After returning to work, Biggs signed up for a CPR course.
“I signed up, along with the majority of my co-workers,” she said. “I hope to never be in a position that I have to pay it forward, but I absolutely want to be prepared if I do.”
CPR Rescue: Robin Vargas
Robin Vargas, a medical services officer with Snohomish County Fire Districts 26 and 28, was headed home from a conference. She boarded a Houston-to-Seattle flight with other EMTs who had attended the meeting that included classes in CPR and dealing with trauma.
Her son Brandon Vargas and his friend Garrett Stitch, both emergency medical technicians, were also on the flight. Before takeoff, Stitch said he heard someone say “Hey sir, wake up sir,” and then heard that the person didn’t awaken.
Robin Vargas yelled for Stitch to get up and grab the man, while her son also went into action. Brandon Vargas and Stitch lowered the man to the floor of the plane’s aisle and started CPR. In what could have been a chaotic scene, Robin Vargas stood on an airplane seat and took charge.
She timed rounds of compressions, directed people to clear the area, and asked passengers to get a first-aid kit and an AED from the back of the plane. A doctor and nurse on the flight also stepped up to help.
Howard Lewis, of Snohomish, then a fire department chaplain, was also on the plane. “It’s just nice that there’s people in the public that are willing to jump up and use their skills to try and save somebody’s life,” Lewis said.
Before the flight took off, paramedics arrived and took the stricken man off the plane for more treatment.
Vargas said that by knowing CPR “we gave him the best possible chance for survival.”
They left Houston not knowing if all they did made the difference, but they did know they gave the man a fighting chance.
Roadside Rescue: Linda Hayden
Petty Officer Linda Hayden was based at Naval Station Everett, but was headed to Naval Hospital Bremerton when she spotted a car in a ditch with its wheels still spinning.
Hayden’s errand to get a flu shot and blood tests turned into a mission to help the woman in the car. She was hunched over and not breathing. “She had no pulse, nothing,” Hayden said. “I thought she was going to die.”
The woman was also in uniform — for Hayden, she was a sister in arms.
Ron Lewis was with Hayden. They called 911, and Hayden started CPR. While being given CPR, the woman suffered a seizure and kicked Hayden in the ribs. The kick was so hard, it broke one of Hayden’s ribs. Still, she didn’t quit working.
Paramedics arrived, and Hayden later learned the woman would be all right.
“I got to save a sister’s life,” Hayden said. “Joining the military, everyone’s life is more important than mine. I don’t care who you are, I’m going to do whatever I can to save you.”
Youth Call to Action: Holden Ford
Holden Ford was 13 when he spotted a potential tragedy. It happened during a pool party at a private campground in Sedro-Woolley.
“I realized there was a kid at the bottom of the pool,” said the teen, whose family lives on a farm in Skagit County. The boy was Holden’s friend. “I thought he was playing around so I jumped in and banged his foot,” Holden said. When the boy didn’t react, Holden surfaced and saw the boy slowly turn over.
He quickly told an adult, then dove in and brought the unconscious boy up from the bottom of the pool. Adults called 911 and started CPR. Paramedics later said that another minute under water, and the boy might not have been OK.
Glad to have rescued his friend, Holden was also bothered that he hadn’t known what to do once the boy was out of the water. On the way home, he and his family talked about how they could prepare if such a situation were to happen again.
Holden and his younger sister decided to take a first-aid and CPR class.
Skagit County Emergency Medical Services gave Holden an award for pulling his friend from the pool.
“For someone to come in and take CPR after that — that’s golden. I wish more people were willing to do that,” said Julie Heim, an instructor with Skagit County EMS.
“Be prepared for things like this, even though they may never happen,” Holden said. “If they do, you’ll be glad.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.