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American Red Cross Presents Kent Nursing Faculty Member with Call to Action Hero Award
It was lunchtime at the Wayne County fairgrounds when Tracy Dodson, MSN, RN, lecturer at Kent State University College of Nursing, found herself at the right place, at the right time, to perform lifesaving CPR on a fellow fairgoer. Tracy’s heroic efforts were recognized at the inaugural American Red Cross Hero Awards for the Lake Erie/Heartland chapter of the Red Cross on October 4, 2018, at the Mansfield Renaissance Theater. “The American Red Cross likes to recognize local heroes,” said Lara Kiefer, Lake Erie/Heartland Red Cross Chapter executive director. “These are ordinary people in our community doing extraordinary acts.”
Standing in line for food with her husband, Tracy couldn’t help noticing a gentleman ahead of them coughing uncontrollably. “He just didn’t look healthy, but I minded my own business.” It was only after the gentleman fell to the ground and those around him shouted for help, did she spring into action. Tracy quickly observed the man was not breathing and had begun turning blue. She checked for a pulse and started CPR immediately. Tracy had completed two rounds of CPR before volunteers from the American Red Cross booth, which happened to be located around the corner from where the incident was unfolding, arrived with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and an Ambu-bag to supply the man with needed oxygen.
“The AED indicated shock advised so we shocked him and began CPR again,” said Tracy. “We were preparing for a third round of shock when we felt resistance pushing back against the Ambu-bag. We held compressions and he opened his eyes!”
An Emergency Room nurse for 10 years, Tracy has seen a number of cardiac arrests. In many of those cases, the individual’s chance of survival was slim as CPR was not immediately performed. “This never happens. Most people wait for help to arrive and by then it’s often too late,” Tracy exclaimed, still in disbelief. “But in this case, we recognized cardiac arrest early and as a result, he woke up and lived.” The gentleman was transferred to the Wooster Hospital cardiac unit and that was the last time Tracy saw him. She never even learned his name. Retired Wooster firefighter and Red Cross volunteer, Mike Priest, witnessed the whole event and felt compelled to nominate Tracy for the award. The Red Cross Call to Action Hero Award is given to an individual who, by circumstances beyond their control, found him or herself in a challenging situation and demonstrated extraordinary courage.
Tracy was among ten heroes honored for extraordinary acts of bravery, passion, courage and dedication within the community. During the award dinner, an hour-long video showcased each hero sharing his or her story in their own words. “It was very powerful and emotionally moving evening as we watched each hero recount their stories from their point of view,” said Lara. “We were so pleased to recognize Tracy and the other heroes. This is a mission near and dear to heart of the American Red Cross.”
To other nurses who may feel hesitant to offer aid while off the clock, Tracy urges them to remember their training. “To be nurse, we have to be Basic Life Support (BLS) certified,” said Tracy. “We may fear getting involved, but if it’s between life and death, we have an ethical duty as nurses to make sure there’s nothing more we can do. Always be a person who offers help.”
Tracy is also using her experience to encourage her students in the classroom. Through sharing her story, she demonstrates nurses never know when their skills will be needed, even in the strangest of places. “I love being a nurse even if I’m never really off the clock. If there's a need, I feel drawn to fill that need,” said Tracy. “That responsibility has never felt like a burden. It's just what I do, whether I’m clocked in with scrubs or wearing a clocked-out sweatshirt and jeans.” Recognizing the importance of BLS skills, Kent State College of Nursing requires each student to be BLS prepared and maintain that certification every two years. Tracy hopes her students leave her classroom inspired in their choice of career and unafraid to jump in to help others.