Portage County – You may not realize it, but you are surrounded by real heroes every day… ordinary people who react quickly, courageously and selflessly during emergencies. The American Red Cross of Summit and Portage Counties takes time each year to honor the Real Heroes of Portage County, shining the spotlight on heroic individuals who would never be recognized otherwise.
As a community leader in emergency preparedness and response, the Red Cross presented the 12th annual Real Hero Awards to 18 Portage County individuals on March 12 at the Bertram Hotel and Conference Center in Aurora. Presented by Robinson Memorial Hospital, the ceremony was filled with inspiring stories about how each of these everyday heroes reached out to others in life-and-death situations, averting great tragedy and saving lives in the process.
Portage County Corrections Officer Derek McCoy was presented with the event’s highest honor, the Certificate of Merit Award. This award is reserved for an individual who saves or sustains life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Health and Safety Services course. His actions exemplify the highest degree of concern for someone in distress.
While making his rounds at the Portage County Jail, Officer McCoy received a radio call that an inmate needed assistance. When Officer McCoy – a Red Cross trained CPR/First Aid instructor – arrived on the scene, he found a young male inmate lying unconscious on the floor of his cell.
Recalling his Red Cross training to “Check-Call-Care,” Officer McCoy detected that the man did not have a pulse and was not breathing. Instructing another officer to call for additional help, McCoy began CPR compressions. Within seconds, the facility’s nurse arrived with an AED. Officer McCoy applied the pads but the machine determined “No Shock Advised,” so he continued compressions and rescue breathing.
When the local EMS arrived, they found that the inmate had a faint pulse and was now breathing, thanks to the immediate emergency measures Officer McCoy had taken… saving the inmate’s life.
- Other Real Heroes receiving honors were:
- Kenny Weaver and Ken ‘Scotty’ Scott, brothers-in-law who were fishing from their boat on Lake Erie in October when they discovered four men in the water with their boat sinking fast. First, they threw life jackets to the men who had already been in the cold water a half-hour. Then they pulled each one from the frigid water, into their boat, and to shore, where they notified the Coast Guard and got the survivors to safety.
- Samantha Kollman and Sgt. Pat Domos. Samantha was exercising at a fitness center with her mother, Rhonda, when Rhonda suddenly fell to the floor, unconscious with no pulse and no breathing. After yelling for someone to call 911, Samantha began CPR on her mom. Aurora Police Sgt. Pat Domos responded to the call and took over CPR. He also administered two shocks to Rhonda with an AED before she regained consciousness and could breathe on her own. Paramedics then flew her to Metro Hospital. Rhonda made a full recovery.
- Larry Nething was s a newly-hired PARTA bus driver when he picked up Geraldine Herron from the Ravenna Senior Center. But she was stung by several wasps as he escorted her to the bus. Soon, she slumped down in her seat with her head rolled back. Larry immediately called the dispatcher. The ambulance soon came and Geraldine was rushed to Robinson Memorial, where she was treated for anaphylactic shock.
- Ohio State Patrol Sgt. Les Brode and Mark Kinzer, Assistant Foreman for the Ohio Turnpike Commission, both responded to an emergency call at milepost 191, where a vehicle had crashed into trees. The driver and passenger were still inside when the car burst into flames. Each responder had fire extinguishers in their vehicles and raced to the car. As Brode fought the fire, Kinzer carried the passenger from the car. Together, the men pulled the driver from the car. Brode administered CPR to the driver, who has suffered a heart attack prior to the crash. He unfortunately died at the scene. But the passenger was life-flighted to a nearby hospital and made a full recovery.
- Jane and Bill Wallbrown spearheaded the creation of Act 2 at West Branch High School and the community at large, in partnership with Akron Children’s Hospital. This is a set of procedures for teachers and coaches to follow when a child suffers a head injury and is in danger of concussion, to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. Their efforts follow the debilitating experiences suffered by both of their teens, who received concussions during an indoor softball practice and in an ATV accident.
- Richard Polivka, Streetsboro Police Officer, responded to a man suffering a heart attack at his residence. The man was lying unconscious on the floor with no pulse and not breathing. Polivka administered CPR until paramedics arrived. They used an AED device to shock the man’s heart, which helped him resume breathing before being rushed to the hospital.
- Aaron Cotes, Streetsboro Police Officer, responded to a 911 call from an auto repair garage, where he found Steve Loar lying in a pool of blood as a result of a deep gash in his neck… the result of an exploded fan shroud from the truck he was fixing. Cotes applied direct pressure to the gash with shop towels, slowing the blood flow. Loar was slipping into shock when paramedics arrived and began advanced life support. An emergency helicopter flew Loar to the hospital. He made a full recovery.
- Streetsboro Police Dispatcher Josee Acklin and Police Officers Richard Polivka and Jason Hall responded to a fire at Portage Pointe Apartments last winter, only to discover that a tractor-trailer rig had jack-knifed into a snow bank, blocking the route as fire engines arrived at the scene. Acklin and Hall worked to redirect engines along alternate routes as Polivka evacuated tenants from the building. Hearing cries for help, he saw firefighter John Braska in a second-story room engulfed in fire. He provided him with a ladder with just moments to spare before a wall of flames burst from the broken-out window.
- Kathy Hampton, Keith Richmond, Yvonne Watters and Scott Danna are members of First Response Team, an emergency management group atGE Healthcare facility in Aurora, providing medical emergency response within the facility. Hampton was first to respond to co-worker Mike Donofrio, who had collapsed during a meeting. He was not breathing and had no pulse. She was on her third round of CPR compressions and breaths when Richmond and Watters arrived with the AED and applied the pads. Danna, who had called 911, coordinated the team’s response. Following extensive heart surgery, Mike made a full recovery and returned to work.
All of these heroes – as event chairperson Lisa Perez said, “turned tragedy into triumph — and heartbreak into hope.”
The American Red Cross of Summit and Portage Counties works on the local level, responding to disasters; teaching first aid, CPR and aquatics; keeping military families in touch; and providing blood products for sick and injured patients. The Ravenna office of the Red Cross can be reached locally at (330) 296-9991 or at www.summitcounty.redcross.org.