Red Cross Honors Hero

Red Cross Honors Hero

Local Red Cross thanks its volunteers.

For only the second time in its history, the Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross presented the highest award given to an "individual who saves or sustains a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Health and Safety course." It was presented April 21 during the chapter's Annual Volunteer Recognition Event.

Designated the "Certificate of Merit," it was awarded to Joseph Johnson for his actions Dec. 8, 2003, at a YMCA pool in Orlando, Fla., where he helped sustain the life of a male victim who had suffered a heart attack. At the time Johnson was teaching a class in water safety as a civilian aquatic and fitness coordinator for the U.S. Army.

A resident of Fredericksburg, Va., Johnson works out of the U.S. Army Command and Family Support Center on King Street in Alexandria. As an American Red Cross water safety and life guard instructor, Johnson "called on his life guard, first aid, CPR and AED Red Cross training to sustain the life of the victim until EMS personnel arrived," according to Julia Wright, executive director, Alexandria Chapter.

"We were in Orlando doing training in aquatics and had taken a lunch break. When we came back I noticed this man, who had been running, come into the pool area but didn't pay a lot of attention. Then I saw a bunch of people running about at the diving end of the pool," Johnson said.

"That's when I noticed we had a real incident in progress. The life guard at the pool had sort of frozen not knowing what to do. I got up to that end quickly, gave the victim a couple of breaths, and began CPR," Johnson said.

"The life guard got a defibrillator and we shocked him three times. Then I and another instructor went back to CPR until the EMS personnel arrived. When he left the building he was still alive. But, we never did find out the final outcome of his condition," he said.

Helping Johnson at the scene was Tina R. Robinson of Triangle, Va., an aquatic instructor at Quantico Marine Base. She was involved with the military training at the time. Robinson received the Red Cross Certificate of Recognition during last Thursday's ceremony at the Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center.

"We're extremely proud to present this award to Joseph Johnson because his actions on that day demonstrate why a fundamental mission of the Red Cross is to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies," Wright said.

"An emergency can strike any place, any time, and having as many people trained as possible in lifesaving skills makes us all safer," she said. The Certificate of Merit citation, the organization's highest humanitarian award, is signed by the President of The United States.

In addition to Johnson and Robinson, four others from throughout the country will receive the Certificate of Recognition by their local Red Cross Chapters for their part in that incident, according to Wright.

Overall, the local chapter honored more than 50 volunteers during its Volunteer Recognition Event. Each received a certificate recognizing their contribution to the chapter's myriad activities.

Those cited for Exceptional Volunteer Service were Daniel Seitz, Jr., a long-time volunteer who participates in a variety of Red Cross activities from Volunteer Orientation to the Waterfront Festival; Patty Mason, a "dedicated Friendly Visitor Volunteer" since 2003 in the chapter's program to aid homebound seniors and others; Franklin Brewer, a teacher in the chapter's HIV/AIDS Education program for the past 35 years; Donald White, a Disaster Action Team Leader who assists the chapter with its Disaster Response Team Review; Ann Kelly, a "cornerstone" of the International Services Program; Sandra Cizmar, a long-time volunteer at the Waterfront Festival, and Kristy Shank, president, Inter-School Council.

Awards were also presented to a host of volunteers in the following categories: Blood Services, Community Services, Disaster Action, Financial Development, International Services, Youth, Chapter Support, Health and Safety, and the Waterfront Festival.