Author Archives: Kathryn Hecht

Follow the training; save a life

James Bird

James Bird works as a sales engineer. He also serves as a part-time EMT to support volunteer organizations and wilderness events. And on November 25, 2019, James helped save the life of a woman who was choking at the Westfield Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, CA. 

Earlier in the evening, James met a friend for dinner in the food court at the mall. They parted ways long enough to place their respective orders, and as James waited for his food, a commotion caught his eye.

“I turned and saw what I thought was a security guard forcefully removing a woman from the food court, and it seemed odd,” he says. “But then I had a realization that he was attempting to do abdominal thrusts…. the problem was the way he was administering the thrusts. I thought, ‘man, that is really ineffective; someone needs to go over there and help him.’ A moment later, I think, ‘oh my goodness, that’s me.’”

James rushed over, identified himself as an off-duty EMT, and then offered to step in. The woman lost consciousness, and James lowered her to the ground, continuing the thrusts while she lay supine. Her face began to turn blue, and James checked her pulse to find it weakening. As James placed his hands on her chest to begin compressions, the woman grabbed his wrist, indicating a return of consciousness. The color came back into her face, and she began to spit up. James continued to monitor the woman’s airway until EMS arrived on the scene. 

Once EMS arrived, James stepped back and then left to retrieve his dinner. He joined his friend at the table, sweaty and out of breath. His friend, Adrian, oblivious, had been facing the other way the entire time of the incident. Adrian sat stunned as James recounted the scene. James glanced toward the woman, now surrounded by police and firefighters, and noticed a whole audience of mallgoers around him listening to the story. Finally, one of the security guards trotted over to retrieve James’ info. 

“Her son was standing there and observing,” James says. “My thoughts go back to the son… can you imagine going holiday shopping and having this happen? I heard that the family reflected on how lucky they were that someone was there to help them.”

James is the Health Services Officer of Squadron 80 of the California Wing, Civil Air Patrol. His commander caught wind of the event, confirmed the incident’s details, and honored James at a Civil Air Patrol meeting.

It so happens that over the past year, James has been in contact with the American Red Cross to certify all members of his wing in basic lifesaving skills and to expand wilderness survival training certification. Knowing this connection, his friend, Adrian, put two and two together and nominated James for a lifesaving award through the Red Cross. Adrian knew that such recognition could help cross-pollinate interest in James’ work with the Civil Air Patrol.

Thus, on Thursday, September 17, Ken Toren, Chief Executive Officer, Red Cross Silicon Valley, presented James with the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Action.

“This is a documented event that puts together real-life training that helped save somebody as a part of our organizational relationship with the Red Cross,” says James. “That family gets to talk about the event later – and I will make sure to that pass on with anyone who comes through classes or programs I set up in the future.”

Thank you for your service, James, and congrats on well-deserved recognition!

Fire, fear, and a helping hand

By Marcia Antipa

Roxanne, Hunter, Bill, and Vera Corbin

On a hot, windy Thursday in late August, the Corbin family of Morgan Hill got a cellphone alert: an evacuation warning, telling them to get ready to leave their home. Firefighters said the SCU Lightning Complex Fire threatened their community.

Bill Corbin realized the threat was serious.

“The wind was blowing southeast,” says Bill. “If it was to pick up, we would definitely be in danger.” Read more

A smile to share

Volunteer BreAnna Sanabria and a smile behind the mask.

A few weeks after beginning training, BreAnna Sanabria packed up to board a flight for the first time in seven years. For the first time, she deployed on August 22 to support the American Red Cross response to fires in Northern California. No stranger to service, BreAnna was more nervous about the flight than the work itself.

“I like being social and like to give back,” says BreAnna. “Our parents always said we were very blessed and that we should always give back. I thought the Red Cross was a way I could do that.”

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‘This One Really Hit Me’ — A Volunteer Story

Written by Patricia Friedman

Red Crosser Anne Johnson; a virtual selfie.

American Red Cross Volunteer, Anne Johnson, calls Fairbanks, Alaska home, but this year, she has found herself all around California – virtually that is. Anne is a recovery casework volunteer and spends her days calling people impacted by wildfires to offer Red Cross support services. In addition to resources, Anne also spends long hours on the phone, offering one invaluable service: connection.

“I was nervous about virtual deployment,” Anne says. “How do you offer something long distance from Alaska?” Yet, she quickly figured it out. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people apart, Anne realized that people desired a personal connection and to be heard. Something struck her during a recent conversation with a Red Cross client. “This one really hit me,” Anne said, and she knew she had to do something more.

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Red Cross is Music to My Ears

Written by Patricia Friedman

Dennis at his house. Photo | Dennis Patterson

Dennis Patterson’s first love is playing music, but his second is helping others, so he was “blown away” by the American Red Cross’ response to the California Wildfires.

A Santa Cruz local since 1952, 72-year old Dennis, and many in his small community of Ben Lomond, didn’t realize the size of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, which to-date has consumed more than 86,000 acres. Dennis was already overwhelmed and in shock from a horizontal tornado that days earlier, had swept through his neck of the woods, knocking a 100-foot Sycamore tree onto his tiny house. “I can’t describe it. I couldn’t even breathe when I got out the door,” Dennis told friends who came to help at daylight.

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A leader in ‘a beautiful circle of caring’

By Marcia Antipa

Red Cross Gala 2015

Lillian Phan

This is the story of Lillian Phan, a bright and accomplished young woman, who also happens to be a stellar volunteer with the American Red Cross. Like so many American stories, Lillian’s begins with immigration, determination, and hard work.

Lillian’s parents immigrated from Vietnam, sponsored by a Christian organization that gave them a head start with food and shelter. Eventually, the Phans moved to Santa Clara County. Both had to overcome the language barrier and reinvent themselves.

“My Dad gave up architecture and became a nuclear engineer. My mom gave up her law degree.”

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