Red Cross recognizes area heroes

Police officers struggle for what seems like forever to hold tight onto a young man threatening to jump off a bridge to kill himself.

A 911 operator talks a nervous father through CPR to save his newborn son.

Two nurses perform CPR on a fellow employee who suffered a severe heart attack.

A young man breaks a window and pulls a neighbor from their burning apartment building.

The heartwarming stories were told one by one, 14 in all, detailing the split second decisions of people doing what they could to help somebody in need… and saving lives.

“They’re all heroes who reacted to situations without thinking about themselves, but rather thinking about what they can do to help,” said Ken Sawyer, who was master of ceremonies at the Fourth Annual Heroes Breakfast sponsored by the American Red Cross. “They don’t want to be heroes, but when the time comes, they are heroes.”

“We’re here today to celebrate these folks in our communities,” Sawyer continued, looking out into the crowd gathered in the ballroom at the Genetti Hotel.

Each “hero” was called to the podium, their story told by Sawyer and a special award presented by the Red Cross for their “courage, kindness and quick thinking actions … doing the right thing at the most needed moment.”

The honorees were nominated by the public and selected by a volunteer review panel They are residents of Clinton, Lycoming and Tioga counties, the area served by the Northcentral PA Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Among those called to the front were Lock Haven City Police officers Andrew R. Fisher and Timothy Lee Davis and LHU Director of Public Safety Paul Altieri, representing Jason Wertz, a member of the university’s police department.

They became “heroes” on Friday, March 9, 2012, when at about 5 a.m. the city officers were dispatched to the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge for a report of a male threatening to kill himself, according to information on the nomination form.

Upon arrival, the individual was at the railing of the bridge over the Susquehanna River and communicated his intent to jump and “kill himself.” Officers immediately called for more help and began a dialogue with the man who was insistent that he was going to “kill himself” by jumping into the river.

As assisting agencies began arriving the man became agitated, climbed over the railing and positioned himself to jump from the bridge. Fish and Davis grabbed him as he began to jump from the bridge and held him for some time before assisting officers were able to get him back over the railing safely.

Following a substantial amount of time, Fisher and Davis began to tire and fortunately LHU Officer Jason Wertz arrived. Together, the three were able to control the individual until more personnel arrived.

“While it cannot be said with certainty that the individual would have died, it is clear that the swift actions of these officers precluded that possibility,” Sawyer said.

Lisa Zuback and Kelly Nihart, nurses at Lock Haven Hospital’s Haven Skilled Rehab and Nursing facility, became “heroes” by performing CPR on a fellow employee stricken with a severe heart attack in the employee break room.

Nihart attempted to open the door of the break room but it would not readily open. When she looked inside she noticed another employee, Dennis Sheasley, was lying on the floor with his feet up against the door. Upon making her way into the room, she was not able to get him to respond.

Quickly, using her skills and training she checked for a pulse and respiration and then began CPR. Zuback arrived shortly thereafter and the two nurses performed CPR until he was transported to the emergency department. He then was transferred to the Susquehanna Health System in Williamsport where he was in critical condition.

“He has now recovered and has returned to work. Just another day on the job for two nurses who save lives because they act instantly and remember their training 24/7,” Sawyer said.

It was in April, 2012, when Doug Bertin, of Jersey Shore, became a “hero.”

An apartment building fire broke out in what was home to both Bertin and Joey Rose. Through the noise and chaos of the alarms and sirens, Dough heard the sound of a human voice crying out for help. Without hesitation he rushed to a second floor back porch, the direction from which the sounds were coming and broke out a window from where he guessed the plea for help arose.

Unable to see anything because of the heavy smoke, Doug reached inside to grope for anyone who might still be alive inside. He could feel, rather than see Joey, and pulled him out to safety through the broken window. Together they made their way through the burning building by way of Doug’s apartment and both made it safely outside.

“While treated for smoke inhalation, the otherwise uninjured Joey was rendered homeless but thankful to be alive … due to the quick and correct actions of his caring neighbor, Doug Bertin, who also lost his home,” Sawyer said.

And then there’s the mother-daughter “heroes,” Michelle and Elyse Wright of Muncy, who noticed flames underneath a neighbor’s home and alerted occupants that their house was on fire.

Despite the fact that Michelle was screaming while she knocked on Maurica George’s door to alert here to the need to escape, Maurica was sleeping soundly and failed to wake up. The persistent and loud knocking did, however, upset one of Maurica’s cats who jumped on her chest and woke her, allowing for a safe exit.

“You’ll be happy to know that the cat, while scared and not able to go with its owner instantly, did indeed escape safety along with other pets from the home,” Sawyer said.

A woman is abducted by her ex-boyfriend who threatens to harm her. But that didn’t happen because of the heroic actions of Muncy Township Police Chief Christopher McKibben, who arrested the kidnapper at gunpoint.

The woman had arrived at work, but before she was able to go into the establishment, she was abducted by her ex-boyfriend, who, while locking her into his car stated, “You are going to make me do something with a knife that I’m going to regret.”

Chief McKibben pulled up on the scene, leaped out of his cruiser and into action ordering the abductor out of the vehicle where he was taken into custody without further incident and was charged with felony kidnapping, false imprisonment, terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment.

“A scared and shaken woman owes her life to the swift and very brave actions of yet another hero in uniform,” Sawyer said.

Jessica Burget takes her wedding vows seriously. As soon as the DuBoistown woman learned that her husband Jeff needed a kidney transplant in order to survive, she didn’t hesitate, but offered to be tested in case she was a match.

She was a perfect match, not just as his wife, but as his donor. At the time of the transplant Jeff’s kidneys were only functioning at approximately eight percent and decreasing more quickly than doctors had anticipated.

“If Jessica had not donated one of her kidneys to Jeff, there is a chance that he would not be with us today or would not have survived long enough to receive a kidney if placed on the transplant list,” Sawyer said.

When a baby is on the way, mothers go to the hospital and place themselves in their capable hands… most of the time.

But not this time. Not for Miranda and Keith Allen, who call Kimberly Robinson their “hero.”

Miranda’s contractions were strong and steady but doctors sent her home, expecting she’d be back to deliver something that night. When she could not get comfortable in bed, she decided to take a bath. During the bath she realized that her water had broken and the baby was on its way. She delivered the baby and he was not breathing.

Heath dialed 911 and luckily, Robinson answered his call. She calmly gave him instructions on how to perform CPR. The baby then cried. Kim stayed on the line with Heath until the ambulance arrived. She walked him through the instructions step by step and helped him save the baby’s life.

“A happy ending to a great story that happily the Allens will be able to recount to their son when he is ready to ask about how he came into this world,” Sawyer said.

Sometimes, heroes don’t just do one thing at one certain moment to help somebody else. Brad Russell of Williamsport is one of those “heroes.”

Brad was nominated because of his commitment while raising money and organizing efforts to clean up the damage left in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Sandy. He is an instrumental part of the continuing effort to clean up the Route 87 and Montoursville areas that were affected by the flood. He has helped organize clean ups where hundreds of volunteers pitch in to do their part. He has also helped raise money for flood victims and held a Polar Plunge for Hurricane Sandy relief.

“His commitment to his community is phenomenal and we are grateful for this level of dedication,” Sawyer said as Brad received his award.

Two more “heroes” honored at yesterday’s event are responsible for saving the lives of animals.

Megan Lehman, of Williamsport, was honored for her commitment to rescuing animals, helping find homes for those found or stray and educating and informing others about the importance of spaying and neutering animals.

“Megan has a love for animals that is truly unique and refreshing. She finds just the right match of animal to new home adoption through an interview process, so that animals get a good forever home and adopter get the right animal for their families,” Sawyer said.

And Harold Cole, a Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer, also has a love of animals.

Cole rescued an abandoned bear cub in the DuBoistown area, took possession of the cub, and then cared and fed the cub until the baby bear was able to be delivered to a wildlife rehabilitation specialist.

“Officer Cole not only provides safe and enjoyable hunting experiences for Pennsylvania outdoorsmen, he serves as a diligent custodian of the land and its wildlife,” Sawyer said.

And last, but by no means least, was the title of “hero” bestowed on Donald Konkle, who has committed his life and the lives of his children and grandchildren to the task of donating blood.

Konkle, of Montoursville, has donated over 26 gallons of blood, which is the equivalent of over 208 pints. One pint saves three lives so this equates to about 624 lives saved by his donations alone.

Most importantly, Donald has created a legacy through his influence over his family’s blood donations. His family has donated over 70 gallons so far. His wife Faye is at the 10-gallon mark, son Scott has reached 13 gallons, son Craig is at 12 gallons, son Donald Jr. is at 10 gallons and third generation grandsons, Hunter has one gallon and Walker two pints, and granddaughter Janelle is up to one pint.

“All this effort on behalf of one family is indeed a family affair to be most proud of… an accomplishment made possible through the dedicated and determined actions of one man,” Sawyer said.

At the end of the program, Mark Schefsky, general manager of the Genetti Hotel, presented a $1,000 check to the Red Cross for their continued work in providing relief to victims of disaster and helping people present, prepare for and respond to emergencies.