When we think of heroes, we tend to think of comic book characters who possess supernatural powers. Of course, we know that there are everyday heroes like firefighters, law enforcement officers and those serving in the military whose jobs often put them in situations that require unselfish acts of courage. However, most people may never experience making a split-second decision that could mean life or death for another person. Laurie Levene has made a few.
With no intentions of becoming a hero, Laurie joined the American Red Cross as a volunteer shortly after moving to South Florida with her husband, Arthur, after retiring from her career as a New York public school teacher. Laurie wanted to become involved in her community, make some new friends and do what she could to help others in need. "I'm driven to help people; I want to give back," says Levene.
Although she became a volunteer at that time, she had been exposed to Red Cross training throughout her life for swimming and lifeguard lessons, first aid and CPR classes, being a pool director, and throughout her career in teaching and coaching. The Red Cross prepared her in ways that would pay dividends years later.
She recalls her first experience saving a life – one that hit very close to home. During a hot New York summer day, Laurie was working as a pool director and had her three-year-old daughter with her. She put her into her office while she closed the pool area at the end of the day, but somehow she escaped. Laurie saw that she had fallen into the pool on her way back to the office to get her. Laurie jumped in without hesitation and rescued her daughter.
This past January, Laurie was out to dinner with her good friend and neighbor during a regular couple's night out. During their meal, her friend found herself unable to breathe or speak.
"She was struggling, and I asked her if she was choking," said Levene. “She shook her head yes.”
Laurie’s years of first aid training with the Red Cross immediately kicked in. She quickly positioned herself behind her friend and gave her one abdominal thrust. The blockage cleared and her frightened friend was able to resume breathing normally. At the time, Laurie didn't think of it as a heroic act, she was simply doing what she had been trained to do and helping a friend in dire circumstances.
On July 23, Laurie was recognized in a special ceremony where she received the prestigious Red Cross Certificate of Merit, which is the highest award given by the Red Cross to individuals who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. She was nominated by her husband, who was present at the dinner and witnessed his wife’s quick action, and who also happens to be a disaster program specialist for the chapter.
Laurie is an active volunteer of the Palm Beach & Martin Counties Chapter, consistently putting in many hours that rank her near the top of the list for total hours served annually, and proudly leading the South Florida Region’s Disability Integration Team. She encourages everyone to learn lifesaving skills because you may find yourself in situations similar to hers.
“You never know when these skills will be useful and save a life.”
To register for First Aid/CPR/AED classes, swimming lessons, lifeguarding or instructor courses, and much more in your area, visit redcross.org/take-a-class.
If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned by the Red Cross to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit LifesavingAwards.org to nominate or recognize them today!
Written by Rick Munroe.