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)

We all have a role to play in preventing drownings

By Phil Hansen, CEO, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently reported that the number of drownings across the state has nearly hit a 10-year high.  Each loss of life I hear about hits home. Years ago, I was motivated to join the Red Cross after witnessing a terrible tragedy, like the ones we’ve seen this summer.

As a young man I was involved with a team of rescuers in a search for two young boys who were lost in a river near the camp where I worked. As one boy entered the deep and fast-moving water he had lost his footing and reached back for help, pulling the other boy into the water with him. While we searched the dark water, the mother of the boys stood on shore pleading with us to find them–sadly, neither survived.  I was to learn later that neither boy knew how to swim.

These drowning deaths were heartbreaking for all involved. Personally, I was so troubled by the event that I wanted to do something meaningful to help ensure the safety of children in and around the water – I became a water safety and CPR instructor for the Red Cross where I have continued to work ever since.

Summer is a beautiful time in Minnesota and we are fortunate to have access to pools, rivers and, of course, our 10,000+ lakes.  But the spate of recent drowning incidents has prompted many to ask how future downing tragedies can be prevented.  When it comes to water safety we all have a role to play in promoting and supporting water safety basics, such as never swimming alone, always swimming near a lifeguard, and making learning to swim a priority in our families. We know, and we teach, that multiple layers of protection make the difference when preventing water emergencies and responding to them when they happen.

Here are some ways you can make a difference:

  • Maintain constant supervision when watching children around water. Active supervision prevents water emergencies and saves lives.
  • Have children or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • If someone is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • Enroll in CPR and First Aid courses to learn how to respond. Insist that babysitters, grandparents and others watching children around water know these lifesaving skills.
  • Know before you go—swim where you know it’s safe; walk carefully into open waters; do not dive.
  • Heed the warnings and instructions of lifeguards and other authorities as well as flags and signs.
  • Watch out for the dangerous “too’s”: too tired, too cold, too far from safety, and too much sun.

While the Minnesota summer is short and lovely, and should be enjoyed, there are both joys and hazards associated with recreation in and around water. We ask everyone to take on a role in water safety and to learn to respect the water.  No one is drown-proof, but together we can make our community a safer place to live, play and splash this summer.

Preparedness Has Made the Difference

Joan Egge's family is safe from the Red River’s high waters because of preparedness measures, such as temporary clay dikes. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

By Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross

To appreciate the rising of the Red River, you have to see it. Water appears to spread from horizon to horizon across this northern prairie landscape.

With waters reaching nearly 40 feet in some areas, what would have been a major crisis in past years is mostly a threat under control because of preparation.

For example, clay dikes and sump pumps are protecting many homes, including one in Oakport Township north of Moorhead, Minnesota, where Joan Egge has lived for eighteen years.

“Because we’ve been preparing and preparing you’d kind of hate it if didn’t flood,” says Egge.

Red Cross vigilance remains high as the Red River’s high waters continue to move north and threaten rural communities. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Sandbagging started in early February. Since then the Red Cross has providing more than 150,000 beverages and meals to community volunteers and other responders who have worked to hold back the water both day and night.

“Preparedness is in many ways the greatest piece of what the Red Cross does,” says Tom Tezel, a Red Cross emergency services director leading the response on the ground.

Every disaster is different, but in general the Red Cross responds when the disaster is done, such as when a tornado has swept through a town or an earthquake has struck.

Since early February, Tom Tezel has been leading the Red Cross disaster response to the 2011 Red River flood. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Here, the Red Cross response started during the preparedness phase before the waters started to rise.

“Our mission includes preparedness,” says Tezel. “We can’t wait for disaster.”

Red Cross disaster responders continue to watch and respond, especially as the high water flows north into largely rural areas, cutting off families from essential resources.

Egge, whose family and dog Henry are safe only yards from the Red River, agrees that preparedness is very important. She’s grateful for the help her community has received.

“I know the Red Cross does a wonderful job,” says Egge. “The people here are true heroes.”

Red Cross TC asks: Is the Red Cross ready if it floods?

Jill, our director of emergency services, answers:

A Red Cross volunteer hands out snacks during the flood preparations in Hastings, Minnesota. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

We have shelters ready to open their doors for us in the Twin Cities metro area if flooding displaces people from their homes.  We have clean-up kits containing mops, brooms, cleaning supplies, gloves, and other necessities, ready to hand to people who are cleaning up their homes.  We have thousands (literally!) of snacks and bottles of water in our garage, for us and other chapters around the state to share from mobile feeding trucks (ERVs) or at shelters.  We have lots of trained and willing volunteers, many who have stepped forward and have added to their training in recent months so their skills are fresh.  Many, many volunteers have stepped forward to help in all of these efforts so that we’re more ready to quickly help people…whether it floods or not!  So my answer is a resounding, “yes!”

Red Cross TC: Thank you!! We suspected this was the case, but wanted to ask anyway, being the curious types that we are!!

Red Cross “mass care” means food + drink

The Red Cross has served thousands of meals to people working to hold back the rising Red River waters. Right now, Mark Doble, a Red Cross volunteer from the Twin Cities, is up north managing mass care (aka watering and feeding) for this disaster operation.

Mark reports: “In Fargo, we are getting ready to start sandbagging operations. What I mean is that we are going to start feeding people as all of the sand bags that have been pre-made are now being put around the homes. It’s been great here and the Red Cross Minn-Kota Chapter has been wonderful. I’m looking forward to getting home.”

Our mass care man, Mark Doble, up north. Photo credit: Tammie Pech/American Red Cross

Overwhelming Response Includes the Red Cross

Story and photos by Andrea Bredow, Red Cross Volunteer

Scott Webber & Mary Ellen Fox, volunteers on the sand bagging line in Hastings, Minnesota. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

It was a chilly 17 degrees on Saturday morning, but the cold spring air and piles of snow did not stop the Hastings, Minnesota, community from banding together to fight the looming Mississippi River waters.

An estimated 700 volunteers spent Saturday sandbagging homes along the river.  The American Red Cross Twin Cities Chapter volunteers were there as well. The Red Cross feeding vehicle, also know as the ERV, was on hand to provide hot beverages and snacks to keep volunteers warm and energized.

Red Cross volunteers served coffee, hot chocolate, & snacks to people sand bagging in Hastings, Minnesota. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

The call for volunteers went out early in the week and hundreds responded with shovel in hand.  Family’s worked filling bags, youth groups stood in the “bucket line” delivering sandbags to homes and Scott Webber even showed up on his birthday to help.

“This is what the city of Hastings does. We help each other,” said Webber.

Webber and a hundred other volunteers were sent to surround Lloyd Fanum’s river side home with sandbags.  Fanum has lived on the river for 30 years and is always overwhelmed by the communities outpouring of help.

“The boys and girls giving their weekend to help me is overwhelming!  I can’t thank them enough,” said Fanum.

Homeowner Lloyd Fanum is interviewed about the outpouring of help to save his home from the impending flood. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

The army of volunteers turned out 20,000 sandbags in only four hours!

“When the neighbors are in trouble, we are ready to reach out and help,” said Patrick Walker, one of the sand bagging organizers.

Walker says they are ready to gear up the sandbagging operation at any time.  If more homes along the river need help, the Hastings community will be there.

Click here to learn more about Red Cross services and opportunities.

All hands unload at the Red Cross

 

The Red Cross relies on multiple generous hands during disaster response. Behind the scenes hands include the folks who locate water and food donations, the people who are around to help unload the relief supplies when they arrive, and the person who grabs a camera running after those who are doing the heavy lifting, literally. xoxo, redcrosstc

Pallets upon pallets of donated water, juice, and snacks arrive Friday afternoon at the Red Cross in Minneapolis. These items are to feed hundreds of people who will be sand bagging on Saturday as part of flood mitigation. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

 

Red Cross workers unload snacks that sand baggers will be grateful to have. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
11 pallets, 10868 pounds. They're getting a work out! Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Even the best of the best lends a hand to the off load. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Thank you, Target, for your donation. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross