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Red Cross honors 2 Evans Co. residents
The strangers administered CPR to a heart attack victim
W Red Cross - Anderson
American Red Cross Certificate of Merit recipient Victor Anderson, center, is congratulated by EMS Director Mark Bird while Anderson's wife, Joyce Anderson, holds the explanatory citation that accompanies the award. - photo by Special to the Herald

   CLAXTON — For rapid action in administering CPR to a heart attack victim in December, two Evans County residents this week received national Red Cross awards signed by President Barack Obama.
    On Dec. 4, Victor Anderson and Elizabeth Porter were shopping in different aisles of the Fred’s discount store in Claxton. Tommie F. Clark, 72, a retired Georgia State Patrol trooper, was also in the store when he collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.
    Store manager Ginny Crosby came to his aid first, shouting for someone to call 9-1-1 and for anyone who knew CPR to come help. Anderson arrived at Clark’s side and began administering CPR with mouth-to-mouth breathing and chest compressions. Then Porter arrived, taking over the chest compressions.
    So the two citizens, who had not known each other previously, worked together to perform “partner CPR,” explained Robin Wingate, the CEO of American Red Cross of Southeast Georgia.
    By the time an ambulance arrived, Clark had revived. He was alert when placed on the gurney and talked to paramedics in the ambulance. But he suffered a second cardiac event after his arrival at Evans Memorial Hospital and died within a half-hour.
    “They didn’t back up. They stepped forward and they gave him what he needed to survive that initial heart attack until the EMS and the paramedics got there to take care of him, and then later on he did expire at the hospital,” said Mark Bird, the Evans County Emergency Medical Service director.
    Despite the later outcome, leaders in the Southeast Georgia Chapter of the Red Cross called Anderson and Porter’s actions heroic. They nominated the Evans County residents for the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit, designed to honor citizens who are not on-duty medical professionals and who “sustain or save a life” with skills learned in Red Cross-sponsored courses.
    Anderson and Porter sustained Clark’s life until professional help arrived, Wingate explained in presenting the awards at Tuesday’s meeting of the Evans County Board of Commissioners.
    About 383,000 “cardiac events” occur outside hospitals across the United States every year, she said. This matches the number of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests cited by the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.  These are different from heart attacks with warning symptoms.
    Of people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, only 8 percent survive, Wingate noted.
    “Their chances to survive are greatly heightened by doing CPR in the first four minutes,” she said. “That immediate CPR can double or even triple a victim’s chance for survival.”
    Again sharing a statistic that can be found at the American Heart Association website, Wingate said that 88 percent of sudden cardiac arrests occur at home. Both the Red Cross and Heart Association recommend that one person in every family learn CPR.
    Only 90 Certificates of Merit are presented nationwide each year. This is the first time in memory that residents of the Southeast Georgia Chapter’s 25-county region have received the award, according to Wingate and Harry Walker, the chapter’s volunteer public affairs supervisor. He helped obtain four of the awards in previous service to the Carolina Lowcountry Chapter and encouraged the nominations here.
    The process required documenting what Anderson and Porter did with signed statements from witnesses. These were submitted to the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the certificates signed by Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the American Red Cross chairwoman, and by President Obama as the federally chartered organization’s honorary chair.
    Wingate, Bird, and Red Cross chapter official John Wright and region official Sharyn Baggett presented Porter and Anderson each the signed award, a separate citation detailing their actions and a Red Cross medallion.
    The two recipients have very different backgrounds in CPR. Porter is the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team captain for Evans County, a volunteer post she has held for 23 years. For four years, she also has been a certified CPR instructor. During about 25 previous years working as a home health nursing assistant, she had been qualified to use CPR but never had to.
    So this was Porter’s first time using CPR other than in training, she said.
    Anderson, meanwhile, received CPR training twice, more than 40 years ago, but had not kept up his certification since, he said. His first session was in 1966 as a student at Swainsboro Technical College; his second, in 1968 at an Air Force base as an Air National Guard member.
    Like Porter, Anderson had not performed CPR previously on a person in an emergency situation.
    Tommie Clark served 27 years as a Georgia State Patrol trooper and six years in the Air National Guard. He had two grown sons, Gregg and Jay. Jay Clark attended the presentation and said he was grateful for what Anderson and Porter did in giving his father a chance for survival.
    “I think they did exceptional, exceptional,” Jay Clark said. “It made me open my eyes. I definitely need to learn CPR.”
    The American Red Cross of Southeast Georgia also awarded Ginny Crosby a Chapter Citation for her role in assisting Tommie Clark.

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