Heroes Walk Among Us

Story by Dori Cooper/Red Cross Cascades Region

Red Cross Cascades Region CEO Dale Kunce presents the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action award to Hockinson Middle School teachers Kaitlin Johnson and Jessica Stetcher on Sept. 17, 2019 for their lifesaving actions.

Lifesaving heroes walk among us. 

They may not always want attention and may not look for recognition – but they are there –  ready to help at the precise moment we need someone the most.

Sometimes they are the teachers in your own child’s school. 

On February 28th, 2019,  teachers Kaitlin Johnson and Jessica Stetcher, leapt into action to save the life of a sixth grade student at Hockinson Middle School in Brush Prairie, WA. Choking on a candy mint and unable to breathe, the boy rushed up to Ms. Johnson to ask for her help.

“I was thinking that this kid couldn’t die on me,” said Johnson. “It was a pretty scary moment but through it I stayed calm and focused. I knew that I had to make sure his throat was cleared before I could think about anything else.”

In an attempt to dislodge the candy mint stuck in the boy’s throat, Johnson immediately began abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich Maneuver. Even as she was applying the abdominal thrusts, the boy began to slump over and stopped breathing. Undeterred, Johnson continued applying the thrusts until her efforts caused her arms to go numb. That’s when another staff member, Jessica Stetcher, immediately took over. The combined efforts of Ms. Johnson and Ms. Stetcher were finally able to dislodge the mint and the boy was able to gasp his first breath.

Following the scare, the boy was taken to a local hospital where he was checked out and released. 

There’s no question the quick action of these two women saved a boy’s life that day.

Because of their quick and life saving actions, Dale Kunce, CEO of the Cascades Region, presented Kaitlin Johnson and Jessica Stetcher with the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action award. The award is given to individuals who step up in an emergency situation to help save or sustain a life. Recipients exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. The Red Cross commended the two women for their willingness to help others in distress.

“This award is a reminder that you just never know when you’ll be at the right place at the right time,” said Johnson. “It still seems surreal to me thinking back on it but when I see that student smiling and laughing in the hall, I always feel a sense of relief that that student is able to be a kid and his parents are able to tuck him in at night.”

About the Award

The American Red Cross Lifesaving Awards program has a long-storied history beginning in 1911. 

Since its inception, the Lifesaving Awards program has provided recognition to those who use lifesaving skills to save or sustain a life in an emergency.

Today, the recognition certificates are now presented in three categories. The Certificate of Merit is given to laypersons. Professionals and healthcare workers receive the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders. The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is given to the general public who demonstrates life saving skills in daily life.

All three awards embody the spirit of American Red Cross Training Services.

To date the Lifesaving Awards program has awarded 358 individuals who have helped save 162 lives.

Red Cross training provides the knowledge and skills necessary to act in an emergency and save a life. 

To sign up for a class, go to https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class