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Red Cross recognizes local everyday heroes with ceremony

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Adriana Lopez (center) used her Red Cross First-Aid training to save her son Luca (right) when he was choking.

Adriana Lopez (center) used her Red Cross First-Aid training to save her son Luca (right) when he was choking.

The Greater Long Beach Chapter of the American Red Cross honored 22 heroic individuals and presented the Outstanding Corporate Hero award to The Boeing Company at its fifth annual Hometown Heroes Awards Ceremony on Thursday, March 10 at The Hyatt Hotel in Long Beach.
Business leaders, family, friends and members of the community attended to recognize the brave, extraordinary acts of individuals who changed someone’s life. LA County Supervisor Don Knabe led the pledge of allegiance and Mat Kaplan, senior director of Technology and Development, CSULB and Red Cross volunteer, was the emcee.
BP America was the recipient of the inaugural Outstanding Corporate Hero award for their substantial support to the Red Cross, active participation in special events and excellent example of partnership in the community.
The Hometown Heroes Award recipients were presented with a medal and plaque for their heroic act by Greater Long Beach Chapter CEO Nancy Kindelan and Board of Directors Chairman Greg Pierson.
Humanitarian Sponsors were BP America, represented by B.V. Castillo, and The Boeing Company, represented by Tim Sele. Response Sponsors were Southern California Edison, represented by Larry Labrado, TABC represented by Jim Eckland, and Charter Communications, represented by Del Heintz.
On August 10, 2009, Adriana Lopez, a resident of Lakewood and employee of the City of Paramount, used her Red Cross training to save the life of her 3-year-old son Luca. Adriana and her family, including her 3-year-old twins, were at a family barbecue. Adriana had filled plates for herself and her son and set them down on the picnic table. She cut up the meat on Luca’s plate into pieces small enough for him to safely eat, and then she stepped away to get something for them to drink. As she turned back toward the table, she saw Luca grab a large piece of meat from her plate. He stuffed the meat into his mouth, and almost immediately began to choke. It was clear to her that he could not breathe.
Fighting back the panic that any mother would feel, she tried to remember her Red Cross training and think of what to do. She picked Luca up, bent him over her arm, and began giving him back blows. The first back blow had no effect, so she tried again. Fortunately, the second blow worked, and her son expelled the meat. Her son now proudly tells the story of how his mommy saved his life.
Adriana learned CPR through the American Red Cross. She credits her training for keeping her calm through the ordeal. “Before, I would get very nervous and depend on other people to help, but since going through the CPR/First Aid class, I know what I need to do and have the confidence to do it,” she said. “That’s why I was able to help Luca.”

More heroes’ stories follow:

Jack Lee and Steve Roberts
Hunter Cairns is one lucky guy. He plays baseball for the Los Alamitos High team. His grandfather Jack Lee is a retired LB Fireman, and friend Steve Roberts, is active duty LB Fire. Last July, in the bottom of the 7th Hunter came up to bat. The coach told him to bunt, so he got into position, bending into the ball. The pitch came in low and fast, smacking him hard in the chest. Watching from the third base line, Jack, Steve and Hunter’s dad Jason knew it was a wallop. Hunter ran and got about 50 feet toward first base when he collapsed face down in the dirt. When the first base coach turned Hunter over on his back, he took one look at his face, and shouted for someone to call 9-1-1. Jack grabbed Steve and they hurried to Hunter. They ripped open his shirt to look for broken ribs, but saw none. Jack started chest compressions while Steve did rescue breaths. They were so “in the zone” they didn’t hear the fire department siren, equipment or paramedics until the paramedics said “keep doing the CPR,” while they began defibrillation. After the first shock, Hunter started breathing on his own. He was taken to the hospital, where 17 hours later, he regained consciousness. Hunter turned 15 recently but can’t remember the day of the event, which is not unusual in traumatic injuries. What is unusual is with this type of injury, there is only a 10% survival rate, if CPR is not given in the first 3 minutes. Lucky for Hunter, Grandpa and Steve were right there!

Antonio Rosales
Last June, Antonio Rosales was doing his rounds in the Long Beach parks and headed to North Long Beach where he saw a work crew member jumping and waving at him. Workers had accidentally cut an electric line that ran along the water main, and one of his workers had been electrocuted. They were calling 9-1-1 when he flagged Antonio down.
Antonio told them to shut off the power and went to the trench where the electrocuted person had been knocked out. Another worker had used a wooden shovel handle to pull the wire off the man and had tried to pull him out, but he had been shocked himself and had backed off. Antonio carefully reached out to the downed man to assure that there was no electrical current still flowing. Antonio asked the others to help him pull the man out of the trench. Once the man was on solid ground, Antonio checked him for a pulse, and could not feel any heartbeats. Antonio began CPR, giving chest compressions. After receiving just a few compressions, the victim began breathing and coughing up blood and saliva. About that same time, the paramedics arrived, treated the victim and transported him to a hospital.
Antonio learned CPR through his job with Long Beach Parks, Recreation & Marine, who provides Red Cross training to their employees.

Morgan Kaczor
Last February, Morgan Kaczor was a student at Cal State Long Beach, working her way through college as a cocktail server at Captain Jack’s. While the hostess and bartender were taking a break, Morgan was handling the floor. She had just finished taking an order and was behind the bar making the drink, when suddenly she heard a scream. Her manager shouted for her to come quickly to the back of the restaurant, that she needed her to help a choking patron. The woman was holding her throat, choking and coughing frantically. Morgan knew the customer was getting some air but obviously something was obstructing her airway. Another employee had tried using an abdominal thrust, but it had not worked. Morgan asked her if she was choking and she nodded yes. Morgan gave the women an abdominal thrust. Nothing happened. On the second thrust she applied more pressure and suddenly a large chunk of prime rib came flying out of the woman’s mouth and into her friend’s purse. The paramedics arrived shortly after and checked her out and credited Morgan for saving the customer’s life. Morgan had learned first aid and CPR when working with kids at Day Camp, she said: “I hoped I would never need it, but at least I am certified.”

Gloria Lurie
Gloria Lurie is a special education teacher at Jefferson School in the Bellflower Unified School District. During the first week of school in fall of 2009, she was getting students ready to have their snacks when suddenly, a kindergarten student, Taylor Saez, fell out of her chair, apparently having a seizure. Just that day, Gloria had received medication and instructions for this child in case she had a seizure. Gloria directed one classroom assistant to sweep the girl’s mouth to remove the food she had been eating, another to crush some pills for when she recovered from the seizure, and another to wait by the phone to call 9-1-1 if needed. The seizure lasted about 30 seconds, then relaxed, and it appeared that Taylor would come out of it okay. But then the 5-year old stopped breathing and her lips started to turn blue. Gloria sat down next to the child, got her on her back, tilted her chin and began rescue breaths. After Gloria gave about 5 rescue breaths, Taylor began to breathe on her own again. The paramedics arrived and transported the child to Miller Children’s Hospital, in case she needed further care. Taylor was released to come home on a Saturday. But over the weekend, she had episodes again. Her parents returned with her to the hospital, where they were able to discover that the child’s heart was actually stopping for 40 seconds at a time. Since her heart problems were diagnosed she received a much needed pacemaker and has more energy and stamina.

Kevin Byrne
Kevin Byrne, a firefighter with the City of Long Beach, was not expecting to have to use his skills while off duty and enjoying a game of recreation league basketball, but in fact, that is exactly what he did. In July, Kevin was playing basketball with friends in Newport Beach, getting ready to sub into the game. As teammate Dave, who was only 37 years old and in good physical condition, started to come out for a break, he bent over and put his hand on his knees. Dave then called for a time out and dropped to the floor. He fell flat on his back and slammed his head into the hardwood floor. When Kevin reached him and felt for a pulse, he could not find one. While others ran to call 9-1-1, Kevin and a firefighter from Orange County jumped into action, starting the compressions and respirations of CPR. Being firefighters, the two knew that CPR is only a temporary fix. The looked for an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), but the gym did not have one. So the two continued to perform CPR for about 4 minutes, at which time the paramedics arrived. The paramedics used their defibrillator, which was immediately effective, and the victim began to regain consciousness. Because of the quick and effective CPR by his teammates, and the good work of a nearby hospital, the victim, who was in full cardiac arrest, is now doing well and has returned to work. Kevin took his initial CPR training from the American Red Cross.

Jim Odessky
Last August, Jim and his friend Matt were driving when they spotted a motorcyclist down on the ground in the middle of the street. They ran to help. The motorcyclist, who had been thrown about 40 feet from his motorcycle, was trying to move and get up. Jim, who is a lifeguard and EMT, realized that if the man did not hold still he might suffer serious long term effects. So Jim stopped him from getting up and asked him some questions to gauge his mental status. The motorcyclist was not able to answer Jim’s simple questions, demonstrating that although he was conscience, he had clearly suffered a serious head injury. So Jim had another bystander call 9-1-1 and Jim stepped in to help. First he slipped off the man’s helmet, which was pulled tight against his mouth and throat and was restricting his breathing. Then, although the injured man was combative, perhaps as a result of the head injury, Jim was able to hold him in a position that immobilized his spine and kept his breathing clear until the paramedics arrived. Jim continued to hold the spinal stabilization while the paramedics worked on the motorcyclist’s injuries. Because of the head injury and its possible impact on the man’s spinal column, Jim’s quick actions minimized further, potentially serious, injury. Jim said his reason for stepping in was that, “I felt that I should help. This person clearly needed help, and I knew what to do.”

Dan Wayne
Dan manages the Paradise Gardens Apartments, scene of the largest fire in Long Beach history. On June 27, Dan got a call in the middle of the night that there was a fire in the trash room which had been put out by sprinklers. The next morning, when Dan went to investigate, he saw unusual burn marks. Dan looked at the security camera recording and saw that someone playing with it left a great picture of himself. Dan called LBFD who thought it looked suspicious, and suggested Dan distribute a flyer with the person’s picture. When Dan arrived with the flyer, as he was parking his car on Atlantic Avenue he was surprised to see the individual whose picture was on the flyer, walking by his car. Dan called 9-1-1 and notified LBFD. He followed the man to a trailer park behind the apartments. When he showed the flyer to the security guard for the trailer park, the security guard confirmed that the person lived there, and said “I think this guy has been setting fires in our trash cans” . Dan and the security guard followed the individual to his trailer to keep him in sight and within a couple of minutes the police arrived and arrested the individual. The man was subsequently booked for setting other fires in the Long Beach area. The person is thought to be a serial arsonist and has been taken off the streets.

Andy Nakamura, Lenny Arkinstall, Laurence Walker, Robert Taylor, Tony Esparza
Early in December, crews at the Parks, Recreation and Marine Department of the City of Long Beach were getting ready for work. Andy Nakamura, Laurence Walker, Robert Taylor, Tony Esparza and Lenny Arkinstall were at the Marine Maintenance Facility when suddenly their supervisor shouted for help because a boat had come into the dock with an unconscious man. The owner of the boat had piloted it into the station because his friend, Jim Copeland had passed out. They had been fishing when he developed breathing
problems, and although they normally carry oxygen, there was none on board that day. When the victim collapsed the pilot sped in just as the crews were getting ready.
The victim’s eyes were glassy and he was in cardiac arrest, with his heart fibrillating. The 5 co-workers acted as a team: Andy and Laurence did CPR, Lawrence doing chest compressions, Andy performing rescue breaths. Lenny ran for the AED, Robert called 9-1-1 and Tony ran to unlock the gate and direct the emergency responders through the equipment yard. When paramedics arrived, they pulled the victim out of the boat and put him in the ambulance. Although he did not regain consciousness, the team had been able to restart his heart. They all received their CPR and first aid training at the American Red Cross chapter as part of their work. In a recent email, Jim said: “Thank YOU– once I am able to get up and around, I plan on thanking all of you in person.”

Jessie Rellosa
On June 24, Jessie Rellosa, a resident of Bellflower, was in an English class at Long Beach City College. He was trying to come up with a good idea for an essay, when suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Jessie saw the student in front of him collapse, falling from his chair, just missing the surrounding furniture. Jessie leapt up. Jesse realized immediately that his fellow student was having a seizure. He was shaking rapidly and his eyes were moving rapidly in random directions. Jessie shouted for someone to call 9-1-1, then turned the fellow student sideways to reduce the risk of him injuring himself. Jessie put his weight against the fellow’s back and other hand on his knees to keep him in the sideways position until the shaking stopped. Although it felt longer, Jessie thinks the whole seizure lasted about one minute. When the shaking had subsided, Jessie turned him on his back and checked his pulse and listened for breathing. The student’s pulse was very slow and the breathing was coming in shallow gasps. “I was afraid he was going into cardiac arrest, so I began chest compressions.” When Jessie had done15 compressions the student regained consciousness with a start. Paramedics arrived shortly and transported him to the hospital for tests. Jessie learned his CPR at the Greater Long Beach Chapter’s annual CPR Saturday at LBCC in May 2009, just a month before this incident happened.

Sandy Ferguson and Hayley McDonald
In September, Hayley McDonald and Sandy (Latona) Ferguson were dropping off rescued puppies at Pet Set in Long Beach, a groomer who helps get the pups cleaned up for adoption. They were carrying the pups in one by one. “About our 4th trip in, a woman came running in from the parking lot holding an unconscious child.” Erricka Jordan had been dropping off her dog and returned to her car to find her 14 month old daughter Ashley covered with mucous and not breathing. Although there were seven or eight other people in the shop at the time, only Hayley and Sandy knew CPR. Hayley directed Erricka to put Ashley carefully down on the floor. Lifting her head, Sandy cleared the mucous from the child’s face.
Together Hayley and Sandy began CPR and rescue breaths as a team. Sandy was doing the rescue breaths while Hayley was performing chest compressions on little Ashley. After about 4 complete cycles of CPR, the baby began coughing up more mucous and her eyes rolled forward in her head. Paramedics arrived shortly and decided to take Ashley to the hospital for observation. As she was being loaded into the ambulance, she looked out the back window and waved to Sandy. Both Hayley and Sandy learned their CPR on the job. Sandy is an employee of our Outstanding Corporate Hero, BP America and she learned CPR several years ago. As a result of the publicity, she is looking into providing more CPR classes there.

Jennifer Mac Duff, Richard Martinez, Robert Vazquez
Jennifer Mac Duff teaches a “Run-Power Walk” class at Liberty Park in Cerritos, for the ABC Unified School district. Richard Martinez, Robert Vazquez and Dave Nakamura are students in that class. Last April, the students were doing their timed laps as Jennifer monitored their progress.  Everyone seemed fine, but seconds after David Nakamura walked past the teacher, he collapsed.  Jennifer has a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and recognized the symptoms of a heart attack.  She called 9-1-1, took David’s pulse and looked around for help.  Luckily, Richard Martinez said he knew CPR and without hesitation helped roll David over. Robert Vazquez, who had been running on the track, headed over to help. The three checked David’s pulse, lifted his chin to clear his airway and began CPR. With Robert monitoring the vital signs, Jennifer gave David initial rescue breaths and Richard began chest compressions. A bystander, who was on the phone with 9-1-1, told them an ambulance was on the way. The team continued CPR for about 6 minutes.  
The paramedics used an AED to reset David’s heart rhythm.  They said Jennifer and her students saved David’s life. Although David had a quadruple bypass surgery to remove four blockages, he recently ran a half-marathon! Jennifer said he “is a walking miracle” . David was lucky to have been in Cerritos, which offers CPR training to all residents. Jennifer learned CPR through the American Red Cross. The entire power walking class is getting trained in CPR so they can be the next Heroes!

About the Greater Long Beach Chapter
The Greater Long Beach Chapter of the American Red Cross serves the communities of Artesia, Bellflower, Catalina Island, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Long Beach, Paramount and Signal Hill and is ready to respond at a moment’s notice when help is needed. Red Cross volunteers make it possible to provide disaster relief, serve the military and their families, enable youth to learn leadership skills, train others in Red Cross fundamentals, and teach life saving CPR and First Aid. The Greater Long Beach Chapter is a United Way Partner in Bridging the Gap in the communities it serves.

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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
Red Cross recognizes local everyday heroes with ceremony