‘It was like what you see on TV; we just clicked as a team’

 By Lori Wilson

volunteer story_CPR AED save a life1“We didn’t even notice faces; we didn’t know who was there. I remember seeing scrubs, but beyond that nothing; we were focused on the job we had to do,” said Kyle Parkinson, Shelter Manager for the Sonoma/Marin Fairgrounds Shelter.

What started out as a typical day at any shelter, if there is any such thing such as typical, turned into one that three Red Cross volunteers and one FEMA employee will never forget. Joan Sundeen, a volunteer Disaster Health Services RN, was walking between buildings at the fairgrounds shelter when she heard someone yelling for help. She turned the corner and spotted a man sprawled on the ground and another man, later identified as Daryl Schermerhorn of FEMA, performing compressions. She immediately ran over and opened the airway of the man on the ground, as he was literally choking on his tongue. Joan also began yelling for an AED and for someone to call 911.

volunteer story_CPR AED save a life2Kyle, hearing the commotion, ran to see what was happening and immediately went into action, informing Daryl that she was CPR-certified and that she could relieve him. As Kyle began compressions, Lee Minish, Red Cross volunteer and First Aid/CPR Instructor, came onto the scene. He knew there was an AED in the medical clinic building, however his truck was closer and he just happened to have packed his AED when he left to help with the wildfires. He sprinted to his truck, grabbed his AED, and sprinted back. In unison with Kyle, he placed the AED pads, primed the machine, everyone moved back as he administered the life-saving shock. Just as they moved back into position to restart compressions the man took a breath and opened his eyes. By the time the paramedics arrived he was sitting up and talking. “I knew when he started talking he was going to be OK,” said Lee. “I almost didn’t pack my AED, but at the last minute I decided to take it. I know now why I brought it.”

“It was like what you see on TV; we just clicked as a team,” said Joan. “And we were able to save his life.” This was Joan’s first Red Cross deployment and is one she will never forget. For Lee and Kyle, who have responded to many disasters over the years, this day is one that will always stand out as the most memorable. While Daryl works with emergencies in his job with FEMA, he didn’t expect to have such a personal experience with one.

Daryl, Joan, Kyle, and Lee prove that anyone can save a life. CPR is a skill you hope you never have to use, but learning how to do it can be the difference between life and death. #RedCrossThanks to Daryl, Joan, and Kyle.


Vicki Eichstaedt and Jim Burns provided editorial support for this story.