Red Cross honors local man who helped save the life of a cyclist during a cardiac emergency

We have the great pleasure of announcing that Hunter Conrad, from southeast Minnesota, has received an American Red Cross Certificate of Merit. This award is the highest award the Red Cross gives to an individual who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. The certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross.

Photo: (L to R) Kevin O’Brien, the instructor who certified Hunter, Hunter Conrad, the honoree, and Melanie Tschida, executive director of the American Red Cross serving Southeast Minnesota.

Hunter demonstrated heroic efforts on October 4, 2022, when he helped save the life of a cyclist who suffered a cardiac emergency in Dundas, Minnesota. On that day, he was driving down a rural back road when he came upon a group of cyclists who waved for him to stop. One of the cyclists had suddenly lost consciousness and fallen off his bike. Hunter sprang into action, assisting the cyclist in distress. With another member of the group, they alternated administering CPR until EMS arrived and took over. The cyclist was then airlifted to a hospital and later recovered.

Hunter was a true hero because he was trained to respond. More than 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrest every year – but sadly only 11% survive. Are you prepared for the moments that matter? Find the right class for you at

Every second counts during a cardiac arrest. Students and adults can save lives by knowing how to perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Take the example of Dickinson High School student Anika Sayler in North Dakota. She learned CPR during her freshman PE 9 class. Learn more about the class and Sayler’s response to an emergency from a story published in The Dickinson Press in last spring.

Story and photos by Jackie Jahfetson, The Dickinson Press

When a Dickinson teen stumbled upon the scene of a rollover crash on April 19, she immediately hopped out of her vehicle and rushed over to one of the individuals who was lying on the ground and unresponsive. Though another person who arrived at the scene before her was performing CPR, she knew that it was not the correct way she was taught in her freshman PE 9 class. So she mustered the confidence to take over and save that man’s life.

With a short video from the American Red Cross, a Dickinson High School freshman performs CPR during Tina Pavlicek’s PE 9 class Friday, April 23, 2021. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press) 

Though Dickinson High School junior Anika Sayler noted in a previous article that she never believed she’d use those skills she learned her freshman year, it was evident that the course is teaching students with valuable and natural instincts.

For Dickinson High School teacher Tina Pavlicek, who’s been teaching PE 9 for the past 14 years, hearing Sayler’s lifesaving story was inspirational.

“I personally enjoy teaching it because I feel like it’s such valuable information,” Pavlicek said. “… (Sayler’s story) gave me a really great feeling knowing that she used something that she learned in our freshman CPR course and had the confidence to do that and save that man’s life. I got emotional telling the class about it because it’s really a great thing.”

PE 9 is a required course for all Dickinson High School freshmen that is taught by Pavlicek and DHS teacher Tom Gray. The CPR unit consists of a 10-day lesson plan with seven chapters, with Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays focusing on CPR, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are gym activities. Stretching the material into different days allows for students to retain the information, Pavlicek said, adding that she does not want the course to be an information overload.

Chapters one through four highlight the “before giving care,” which includes CPR, using automated external defibrillators and handling choking situations. Toward the end of the nine-week quarter-long course, students will study sudden illnesses, such as diabetic emergencies, seizures, strokes and allergic reactions, and learn how to deal with burns, external severe bleeding and injuries to muscles, bones and joints. The final chapter covers heat- and cold-related illnesses and other environmental emergencies such as poisonings, bites and stings.

“Usually we’ll do a reading of a chapter out loud; there’s video clips through the American Red Cross that we’re required to show throughout the reading. And then we get the mannequins out and they get to do the hands-on portion as well,” Pavlicek said. “So they get to hear it, they get to see it and they get to practice it, which I feel is a good way to hit all of the learning styles.”

A freshman student at Dickinson High School walks through the tutorial of CPR Friday, April 23, 2021, during PE 9 class. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press) 
Utilizing skills learned through Dickinson High School Tina Pavlicek’s PE 9 course, freshman students perform CPR on mannequin Friday, April 23, 2021. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press) 

This course teaches people to handle stressful, emergency situations, and it’s something that will stick with DHS freshman Isabel Kirsch.

“(This helps) knowing what to do under pressure (and if) you see something happen really fast. Before I wouldn’t really know what to do, I’d just panic. But I know what kind of steps to follow,” Kirsch said. “I think (when) you’re at the age where you can start taking care of younger kids more or your grandparents (and) if something were to happen, you’ll know what to do.”

DHS freshman Jake Skabo has learned over the course of nine weeks the basic signs and symptoms of knowing when and when not to perform CPR.

“(I’ve enjoyed) working on the mannequins out there because I like to do hands-on learning,” Skabo said.

Once students finish the course, the American Red Cross requires that all students have to pass all six tests with an 80% or higher and perform all of the skill portions of the class. Students then have the option at the end of the program to pay $32 for a CPR card and become certified, which is good for two years until recertification.

With usually around 50 students each quarter, five to 10 students pay to get their certification. Though Pavlicek doesn’t encounter a large number of students who want to get CPR certified, she noted that at least students will still be trained in it.

“Just like Anika’s story, you never know when you’re going to be in a situation where you may need it. It may be a family member, it might be a stranger along the roadside that needs your help. It’s just a lot of information or giving them the confidence to be able to respond in an emergency situation if it occurs,” Pavlicek added.

This story was originally published on April 26, 2021. It’s re-published here with permission from the The Dickinson Press. Thank you! We encourage all who are able to learn basic lifesaving skills. Learn more here.

March is Red Cross Month: Lifesaving Awards

“I request that during that month (March) our people rededicate themselves to the splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the first President Proclamation of March as Red Cross Month in 1943

Every March we take extra care in celebrating the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

One way you can join this effort is search within your community and find everyday people to nominate for our national Lifesaving Awards.

Nominees are people who have used lifesaving skills, such as those learned in Red Cross CPR and First Aid classes.  On average each year, more than 9 million people in businesses, schools and communities take Red Cross health and safety classes. Many put those skills to use every day.

For example, on July 23, 2018, Meghan Knutson and Julian Meehl helped save the life of a young boy who was found unconscious in a pool at an aquatic center in Faribault, Minnesota. Together, they used their skills learned in Red Cross health and safety courses to save a boy until professional medical help arrived. Or take the story of Tom and Stewart: Why would you stop?

Issued by the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C., your nominees could be recognized with one of three awards:

Certificate of Merit, which is for individuals and off- duty professional responders. This certificate will be signed by the sitting President of the United States, a custom that began in 1913.

Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders, which is for Red Cross-trained professional responders and healthcare professionals acting while on duty.

Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action, which recognizes individuals and teams who are not Red Cross trained.

Nominate today to help and inspire others to learn important lifesaving skills that could save a life.

Post by Zabiba Sameru/American Red Cross

Top ten reasons to learn how to save a heart

By Cassie Sage, an American Red Cross Intern in Minnesota

Valentine1_TWIt’s February, the month of love. A month that is centered on valentines and as we are out and about we see hearts and decorations everywhere we go. We are focused on loving the most important people in our lives and we go out and buy them chocolate and other Valentine’s Day inspired gifts.

Although Valentine’s Day is in February, it is also National Heart Month, which is quite fitting. It is a month that focuses on educating people on how to react and respond if a person suffers from a cardiac arrest. Every year more than 300,000 people die of sudden cardiac arrest but when CPR is performed or an automated external defibrillator can help save the lives of victims.

The American Red Cross offers in person or in class training courses to the public and teaches people how to respond to sudden cardiac arrest, along with first and CPR. So in the spirit of love and hearts here are the Top Ten Reasons to take a CPR class:

  1. You are prepared in an emergency situation.
  2. If an emergency occurs and you perform CPR a person is three times more likely to survive.
  3. You are able to help save a loved one.
  4. You can help save someone else’s loved one.
  5. You become knowledgeable about something that is very important.
  6. CPR is a skill that cannot be learned online, the Red Cross offers in depth classes that will teach an invaluable skill.
  7. Out of 200,000 cardiac arrest deaths a year almost 50,000 are preventable. CPR will lessen this number.
  8. You can be confident that you will be prepared to help if an accident occurs.
  9. You will learn to use life-saving technology, such as an AED, which are available in almost all public places.
  10. This is a skill that can be valuable for a lifetime and you will never know when it will be useful, but when it is everyone will be glad you know CPR.

There are many other reasons why everyone should take a CPR class no matter what month it is. You may have your own personal reasons or stories as to why knowing CPR is important but lets all take the time to take care of everyone’s hearts.

Teen Swimmer Saves A Life

During swim practice in River Falls, Wisconsin, Becca Thomas, a 15-year-old trained lifeguard, noticed that there was something wrong with her teammate, Marissa Metzler, a 12-year-old in the lane next to her.

Becca Thomas (l) and her mom Shelley Thomas (r) outside of their home in Rollins, Wisconsin.

“There was a split second where my brain was saying ‘what’s going on, why isn’t she swimming?'” says Becca. What she didn’t know at the time was Marissa’s heart had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. After briefly thrashing around, Marissa’s body went limp and lifeless.

Becca responded in seconds. She swam over and, keeping Marissa’s head out of the water, brought her to edge of the pool where their coach helped pull Marissa out of the pool and onto the pool deck. There, Becca and a couple of her teammates tipped Marissa’s head upward to clear the airway. When they couldn’t find a pulse, 911 was immediately called.

Becca’s teammates, who are also CPR certified, sprang into action and together they began the life-saving skills necessary to keep Marissa alive. They started chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing before grabbing an AED, (automated external defibrillator). The AED was administered to Marissa’s chest and delivered an electric shock to her heart twice to try and re-establish a heartbeat.  Becca took over handling chest compressions at that time and Marissa began to come to. Shortly after, the River Falls ambulance paramedics arrived and took over.

“In the moment I didn’t think about what was happening, I just did what I needed to do,” says Becca, “But then afterward, all I could think is ‘oh my goodness’ as it all sunk in.” She left the pool that night feeling tired both emotionally and physically. The following Sunday at church she was greeted with an overwhelming support of friends who congratulated her and were encouraged by what had happened. All the glory goes to God, says Becca, for her being in the right place at the right time.

Becca’s mom, Shelley Thomas, tears up when talking about her daughter’s heroic actions. “I’m so thankful that I had her do the Red Cross training.” Shelley takes CPR training every year and believes in passing this practice to future generations, just as her mom encouraged her. She hopes to inspire others with this story of her daughter’s bravery and wants them to know that, “CPR is good training to have, please take it.”

Becca was the youngest person, by many years she says, during her Red Cross lifeguard and CPR courses that previous summer. On her first day of class, when they went around the room doing introductions, many people stated that they were taking the training for their job or other reasons. “I was the only one who didn’t really have a reason to be there, other than the fact that my mom wanted me to take it. The training really isn’t that much busy work and you’re in the water almost every day practicing life-saving skills.” And because Becca was equipped with the skills necessary to save Marissa’s life, Marissa and Becca were able to visit each other recently and celebrate Marissa’s thirteenth birthday.

Many people agree that a CPR class can make the difference between life and death, including Denise Metzler, Marissa’s mom. When the Red Cross contacted Denise and told her that Becca has the potential to receive a American Red Cross Certificate of Merit Award, she cried and said “I just hope more people get CPR trained.”

Click here to find your local CPR training location today.

(Story and photo by Megan Barnes/American Red Cross)

Back Blows and Abominal Thrusts Save Lives

Red Cross honorees from left to right: Safia El Hmamsi, Kathryn Majkrzak, Jena Novak, Roberta Chie, Alisha Tomsen, and Donna Sanderson. Not pictured: David Kucera and Jenny Rassavon. Photo courtesy of Dakota Communities.

Have you choked on food? Ever needed a back blow to dislodge it? Well, we’re happy to report that if the folks around you when or if it happens are trained like those at Dakota Communities, then you’re likely to get help that could save your life.

Recently, we recognized eight Dakota Communities employees who quickly and adeptly used their Red Cross training to help people at their residences for adults with developmental disabilities who were choking, mostly on food objects. From sausage or cheese to a carrot or granola, the trained employees used back blows and in some cases abdominal thrusts to expel food matter from people who were choking. Such life-threatening emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. Go here to find a Red Cross class in your area and to learn life-saving skills.

And thank you Dakota Communities!

Big Turn Out for Red Cross “Save A Life Saturday”

Photos and story by Anne Florenzano, Red Cross Volunteer

Phyllis Skinner (l) and Kenny Jackson (r) practice how to treat wounds at a Save A Life Saturday CPR class in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross

Over a hundred and fifty people signed up to get free, hands-on CPR training at the Twin Cities, Minnesota Chapter of the American Red Cross on Saturday, March 19. They were participants in the national Red Cross “Save a Life Saturday” event held in honor of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Just over a month ago, the events that unfolded in Arizona reminded the nation of the importance of being prepared in the event of an emergency. Many of the bystanders knew CPR and first aid and were able to save the lives of several victims, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who received help from her intern Daniel Hernandez.

Instructor Christen Asher reminds volunteers at a Save A Life Saturday CPR class to compress the chest 2 inches when doing CPR, and to keep an even rhythm. Photo credit: Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross

In honor of those lifesaving efforts, the Red Cross provided fast and easy classes in more than 100 locations across the country to teach the basics of hands-only CPR, the treatment of shock and how to treat wounds. The classes were shortened versions of Red Cross training courses, lasting approximately 45 minutes in sessions offered all day. The courses were offered free of charge through the generosity of sponsors Safeway and Walgreens.

Kenny Jackson and Phyllis Skinner were two participants who attended a morning session in Minneapolis, and are pictured here practicing how to treat wounds. Phyllis, a retired nurse, babysits her grandchildren a lot and wanted a refresher on CPR.

“It’s been a while,” says Phyllis, “and I want to feel confident if I ever need to use it.”

Kenny spends a lot of time at his lake place in the summer.

Instructor Tasha Nembhard goes over the basics of responding in an emergency situation with participants in a Save A Life Saturday CPR session. Photo credit: Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross

“I’m up at the lake every weekend I can from springtime on. I wanted some emergency training in case something happens. When I’m at the lake there often are not a lot of people around, and I want to be prepared,” says Kenny.

Regardless of the reason, many who attended Save-a-Life day in Minneapolis took will be better prepared if someone in an emergency needs help. If you could not make these introductory classes, click here to sign up for one of the many Health and Safety courses provided by the Twin Cities Red Cross. You can also click here to find video instruction on hands-only CPR, controlling external bleeding, and managing shock.

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