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Red Cross Director Credits Training With Saving His Life

Red Cross Director Credits Training With Saving His Life
I am here because of the American Red Cross.

Derek Wilkins is president of the board of directors of the American Red Cross Chapter in Grand Rapids, Michigan and credits Red Cross training he took with saving his life.

About four months ago, Wilkins was at work and began to feel ill. He was sweating and his chest felt tight. He decided to go home, got into his car and then made a decision that saved his life – he turned right instead of left.

Wilkins didn’t go home; he went to the hospital. “Our board decided that we should all experience one of the services that the Red Cross offers late last year,” he said. “So, we took a CPR course. Part of the course was AED training, part of the course was CPR training, and part of the course was recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack.”

When he arrived at the hospital, he was rushed into an operating room. Wilkins was having a heart attack. His wife received a telephone call shortly after her husband was admitted. “Derek. Heart attack. Metro hospital.” That’s about all she could understand.

“Derek was still in the operating room when I arrived at the hospital,” Mrs. Wilkins said. “The doctor came out and said, ‘Your husband is a very, very lucky man. I want this to be very clear, Gerie, if your husband had turned left to go home, he would have died by mid-afternoon.’”

The news was stunning, almost surreal. Mrs. Wilkins was able to see her husband after he came out of surgery. In a sleepy haze, he said, “Ger, it was that split second decision that saved my life. I turned right instead of left. Do you know why I did that, Ger? Do you know why? It was because of my Red Cross training.”

“I really believe that if I had not gone to the CPR training last fall, I may not have recognized the subtle symptoms of a heart attack that I was experiencing. I may not have chosen to go to the hospital,” Wilkins said. “I am here because of the American Red Cross.”

TAKE A CLASS Accidents or emergencies can happen anywhere - at home, in someone’s community, at the local school. Having people trained is an asset for everyone and can increase the likelihood a victim will survive something like sudden cardiac arrest. The Red Cross offers a variety of courses in CPR, first aid and use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) which can give you the skills to act if an emergency occurs. The training also teaches the symptoms of such sudden illnesses as heart attack and stroke. In Derek Wilkins case, the training was truly lifesaving.

FIRST AID APP People can also download the free Red Cross First Aid app, which gives users instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the official Red Cross First Aid app gives instant access to the information someone would need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier to learn first aid.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.