Red Cross Volunteer Saves a Life in NJ Sandy Shelter

monmouth county red cross shelter
To us, real heroes don’t wear capes. They wear a red vest.

Pictured above: Susan Mackenzie, Canadian Red Cross volunteer and Walter Hatch, a resident of the Monmouth Park shelter.

We at the American Red Cross consider every volunteer who dedicates his or her time and efforts to alleviate human suffering a hero. When Superstorm Sandy made landfall on the eastern seaboard, volunteers immediately deployed in order to serve meals, provide clean-up kits, and assist in Red Cross shelters to the countless affected. To us, real heroes don’t wear capes. They wear a red vest.

Susan Mackenzie, joins us from the Canadian Red Cross, which has so graciously offered their support to the American people during this trying time, has been serving in the Oceanport Camp in Monmouth County. In her time here in New Jersey she has been a pivotal part of the shelter, welcoming and greeting residents, assisting with meal distribution, and focusing on client’s mental health throughout the recovery process.

Her truly heroic Red Cross moment took place on Saturday, November 17th, 2012. Residents were gathered in the dining area enjoying fried chicken and fresh vegetables when Susan noticed that Walter Hatch, a 79-year-old male was coughing and struggling from across the room. She watched carefully as she made her way over to him. As she came closer she noticed Walter was no longer coughing and was actually choking. She first asked him if he was okay and if he needed any assistance, and then quickly made the decision to put her Red Cross skills to work. She placed her hands around his body and prepared to perform abdominal thrusts, but not before shouting loudly for a nurse from health services to assist her. She lifted his arms up, and just before thrusting upward, Walter began to cough a little more. A nurse arrived and could hear from his breathing that he had an obstructed airway. It was at that very moment the piece of food had dislodged from his airway and Walter could breathe again.

Susan remained by Walter’s side for the rest of the evening, and not too shortly after Walter was back to making jokes again. Days later, as Susan makes her rounds throughout the shelter, Walter stills reaches out to her with a friendly greeting and whispers something in her ear. “I owe you my life,” he tells her every day. Susan says that this experience has changed her life forever and has provided her with a whole new appreciation for the organization and the work that Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies do around the world.