No one expects emergencies to happen – let alone take place during a family celebration. However, in one short moment, the unexpected can happen.
On March 5, 2022, Kitty Hawk resident Karen Walton was visiting family in Ashburn, Virginia. While participating in a special birthday dinner she saw one of her family members looking distressed and wheezing at the dinner table. Trained in American Red Cross Adult First Aid/CPR/AED, she quickly recognized he was choking, rushed over, stood him up and administered back blows and abdominal thrusts.
After performing the third abdominal thrust, the food became dislodged, and he was able to breathe. Without a doubt, the skills she learned in the American Red Cross Training Services course helped to save the life of her family member.
For this heroic and lifesaving action, Karen Walton received the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit in a ceremony on November 15, 2022. This is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course. The certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross.
“We’re extremely proud to present a Certificate of Merit to Karen Walton,” said Cally Edwards, Communications Director, American Red Cross Eastern North Carolina. “Her actions exemplify our mission to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”
This action exemplifies the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress. Karen was trained by Frank Spruill, a certified Red Cross Training Instructor. In fact, Karen and her husband Chip were Frank’s very first students when he began offering Red Cross certifications with OBXCPR, a non-profit organization committed to teaching people how to save lives in Outer Banks communities of North Carolina.
As Karen’s instructor, Frank was also awarded the Lifesaving Instructor Award. This award is given to instructors of Lifesaving Awardees and is one of our highest honors.
“My mission has been to teach people how to save lives because we all hope that we never have to use that training, but as I like to say, hope is not a strategy,” said Spruill. “By having that training, the panic that I felt can be replaced with a plan. That helplessness that I felt can be replaced with a plan. That helplessness I felt can be replaced with empowerment.”
In addition to providing lifesaving training, Spruill is an active volunteer who supports blood drives in his community, responds to local home fires and has even traveled to national disasters to help provide aid. He is passionate about the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross and encourages people to learn more about blood donation and volunteer opportunities.
Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency and save a life. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.
If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit LifesavingAwards.org to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCrossENC.