There are 19.3 million military veterans in the United States as of 2014, and California is home to the largest veteran population in the nation with nearly two million. That means there are countless people and organizations like the Red Cross working hard every day to support our local veterans and their families.
Two of those people have been honored as this year’s Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Heroes: Sandra Gould and Pete Pepper.
Sandra Gould accepts her Heroes honor from PG&E Rep and Red Cross Board Chair Mike Meko
Pete Pepper accepts her Heroes honor from PG&E Rep and Red Cross Board Chair Mike Meko
Sandra plays an important dual role, serving as both a Case Manager with Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) through CAPSLO and also as a Veteran’s Service Representative with SLO County Veterans Services. With her support, the SSVF program has assisted 143 veterans and their families.
Watch her story:
Pete Pepper is the founder of Central Coast Veterans Helping Veterans and serves as the Co-Mentor Coordinator for the San Luis Obispo Veterans Treatment Court. He has also made multiple trips to Vietnam with fellow veterans, creating an award winning documentary, Killing Memories, about their healing journey.
Watch his story:
Both Sandra and Pete were nominated by their peers and community for these awards, because of their compassion and dedication to serving military veterans.
“What Sandra has done for the homeless veterans in our county is nothing short of amazing,” said nominator Robert Ellis, “Sandra has played a most significant role in this success by connecting these veterans with the benefits they deserved, and were not getting, that enabled them to move out of the creek or off the street and into permanent housing.”
“Pete is an outstanding example of a vet advocating for vets,” said Sr. Theresa Harpin. His advocacy for local veterans has made the Veteran’s Mentor Program “one of the finest in the country.”
The work of everyday heroes like Sandra and Pete can often go unsung, but the Red Cross is proud to honor their selfless acts of compassion and courage. Learn more about the Heroes for the American Red Cross program at redcross.org/sloheroes.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company is proud to present this year’s Service to the Armed Forces Hero awards. The Red Cross is proud to be celebrating a 40-year safety partnership with PG&E.
Central California volunteer and registered nurse Eleanor Guzik has devoted over 4,000 hours since 2012 to serving others through the American Red Cross. On March 9, 2016 Guzik was honored with the Ann Magnussen award, the highest honor of individual nursing achievement in the American Red Cross. From disasters to teaching other volunteers, Guzik has experience in many areas of volunteer work with the Red Cross.
For Guzik, her path to becoming a Red Cross volunteer began just after Hurricane Katrina. In the wake of the storm, Red Cross volunteers were desperately needed to help those impacted by one of the United States’ worst disasters.
“I heard a public service announcement that your local Red Cross was training, so I went down to the Camarillo office and got some training and you were on a plane two days later,” Guzik said.
Following her work on the front lines of Katrina, Guzik served as the Preparedness Health
and Safety Services Nurse Consultant and in this role helped engage nurses as volunteer instructors. Additionally she is a Red Cross facilitator with the State of California Service Team.
“Eleanor exhibited leadership excellence both in developing the Care Assistance program and in leading disaster health services in multiple disaster relief operations,” said Red Crosser Mary Casey-Lockyer, “She is a true example of a volunteer who supports the red mission through leadership excellence.”
Guzik also uses her previous disaster experience as an instructor and helps to develop training that will help volunteers be better prepared to help those in need after a natural disaster strikes.
“Eleanor took the initiative to develop a training for volunteers to be care assistants in our shelters for people with functional and access needs [Disaster Health Services] was able to expand on her initial effort to develop a standardized program that will be trained to perform basic tasks and help residents with basic needs while staying in our shelters. Without Eleanor’s effort, this new service would not be available as a standard offering,” Valerie Cole, Disaster Health Services and Mental Health Manager said.
As a volunteer, Guzik has gone above and beyond to help those affected by disasters. In Fall of 2015 wildfires ripped through California’s Lake, Calaveras and Amador Counties destroying more than 1,7000 homes and displacing thousands of families.
In those fires were five people who lost more than their home, but their ability to hear after losing their hearing aids. That is when Guzik stepped up to help those five strangers. Guzik had recalled meeting Marilyn Reilly, a volunteer in the Desert to the Sea Region, who has worked in the hearing aid business.
After speaking with Guzik, Reilly sought help from Sonus Hearing Healthcare Professionals. Persistence from the pair paid off when Sonus, with support from Starkey Hearing Foundation, announced that the five victims would receive hearing aids for free.
At an event in February, four of the five fire victims were fitted for new hearing aids. Combined efforts provided a total of more than $30,000 worth of hearing aids.
Most recently, Guzik has worked to with Red Cross Government Relations to change restrictive Automated External Defibrillator (AED) legislation. Guzik was instrumental in providing real word examples of why the laws around AEDs needed to be updated in California. In addition, she provided research and input during the legislative process.
On August 28, 2014 California Senator Jerry Hill’s Bill to expand the availability of life-saving AEDs unanimously passed the Senate and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 9, 2015.
For Guzik, one of the biggest positives of volunteering with the Red Cross is meeting other people with the same passion for helping others.
“One of the privileges of volunteering with the Red Cross is the volunteers, the other people you get to work with. They’re exceptional people, I am grateful that I got that opportunity,” Guzik said.
This passion for working as a team and building relationships with fellow volunteers is why Guzik has been honored with the American Red Cross Ann Magnussen award.
“The more I do, the more I love it. It just fills your heart, the work does. And I probably put in as many hours or more hours as I did when I got paid,” Guzik said.
The following blog post is written by guest writer Brian Bullock and was originally published by Pacific Gas & Electric Company. The Red Cross is proud to be celebrating a 40-year safety partnership with PG&E.
Like a lot of PG&E employees, Beverly Jones has sat through her share of Safety Minutes prior to meetings where the facilitator assigns someone to phone 9-1-1 in case of an emergency, someone to chase down the closest automatic external defibrillator and then finds someone who is certified in cardio pulmonary resuscitation. Even though she was certified to perform CPR, she admits she was reluctant to volunteer to use it, at least until Oct. 22 when she had to use it to save her husband Michael’s life.
Beverly, who started working at Diablo Canyon Power Plant as a contractor with Pullman Construction 32 years ago and now is an administrative specialist at the Old Santa Fe Road warehouse, was sitting with Michael, whom she met when they were both working in the General Construction Mechanical department over 30 years ago, watching the San Francisco 49ers get soundly thrashed by the Seattle Seahawks when Michael, after several days of not feeling well, went into convulsions and slumped lifelessly onto the couch next to her.
“We thought he had flu symptoms. Started on a Tuesday. He just couldn’t keep any food down,” Beverly said, recalling what led up to her husband’s collapse. “It just seemed like what people have when they get the flu.
“We were starting to watch football and he said I’m feeling a little dizzy. About the third time he said that, he just started convulsing. Sitting on the couch, he just started convulsing and then slumped over. All that fast.”
Just that quickly, Beverly pulled Michael onto the floor of their San Luis Obispo home and started chest compressions to keep him alive. She said she was lucky that she had been recertified in CPR in a class at PG&E’s warehouse organized by coworker Karen Reitzke, a buyer in the company’s supply chain, on Oct. 2. She had taken a similar class to be certified some 20 years earlier at Diablo Canyon.
In the heat of the moment, though, she got confused about exactly what to do. CPR training has changed since she first took the class, going from both chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, to just solely chest compressions.
“It was kind of weird to me, I remembered I had to do compressions and I knew I needed to breathe, but I forgot to start counting. Then it was like ‘Oh wait, I don’t have to breathe,’” she explained. “I was by myself and so I knew I had to call 911, but I still had to do the compressions. I called 911 and I was trying to hold the phone and trying to do compressions and (the operator) told me to put the phone down but don’t hang up.
“We live maybe a half-mile, if that, from the fire department. So I could hear the sirens coming. So I calmed down and just started the CPR again.”
Eight firefighters from the San Luis Obispo Fire Department and a San Luis Ambulance crew all converged on the Jones’ home. After Beverly left Michael long enough to let them in, they went to work and had to use an AED three times on Michael to get his heart started again.
“I heard them have to put the paddles on him and do the “clear” three times. So essentially in my brain, I think he died three times. I heard one of them say ‘Go check on the wife,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh no! That’s me,” she continued, adding she was downstairs trying to calm their dog, Bella, a protective Weimaraner who had been frantically barking when the responders invaded her home.
By that time, she was sequestered downstairs as the EMS people worked to revive her husband. It wasn’t until she heard Michael moaning that she knew he was alive. He was taken to French Hospital Medical Center where he spent 11 days in the Intensive Care Unit, part of it in an induced coma-like state. Beverly learned from the doctors that her 59-year-old husband actually had developed pneumonia and had aspirated which caused sepsis, a blood infection, which led to his cardiac arrest.
Over the next several days, Michael and Beverly were visited by three of the eight firefighters and the ambulance driver who responded to their emergency. It turned out that firefighters from Station 1 and Station 4, along with an ambulance crew all responded to Beverly’s 911 call, and it was a good thing, too. It took many of them to get the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Michael strapped to a backboard and down their home’s narrow stairs. Coincidentally, one of the emergency responders was at San Luis Obispo’s Farmers Market giving CPR lessons to children.
“The ambulance driver gave me a big hug,” she said, recalling the days after the incident. “They were amazing. They just did their thing and it was pretty amazing. French, all of its staff, everyone in the ICU was amazing, too.”
Beverly learned from a nurse in the ICU that what she did to keep her husband alive as she waited for help was pretty amazing, too. The nurse told Beverly that there was another man in the ICU who hadn’t received CPR prior to the EMS response and she said they weren’t sure if he was going to make it.
Michael is back at home with an internal defibrillator inserted into his chest and outside of a sore throat, which resulted when he removed his own aspirator, and a few cracked ribs, courtesy of Beverly’s energetic CPR, he’s doing fine.
“I can remember in the class they kept saying ‘Don’t be afraid if you hear ribs pop, or you break ribs.’ Part of me was thinking I’m not hearing anything popping, so I don’t know if I’m doing it right,” she said, recalling her latest CPR instruction. “I didn’t find out until a week later, the doctors said he had a couple of fractured ribs. I was like ‘Oh, I must have done it right.’ Two weeks later, that’s the only thing that’s bothering him is the fractured ribs.”
The whole experience proved just how valuable taking those CPR classes through PG&E was to her and her husband. It also had her thinking back to all of those Safety Minutes she has been through.
“The thing is, is I was always the one who was reluctant to raise my hand when they asked for CPR certified. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be responsible for someone else. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. There’s just something that makes you hesitant to go, ‘Hey, yeah, I’ll be the one that saves that person’s life,’” she admitted, adding that has all changed, now. “Essentially, for people who don’t know what to do, they need to do something. Do anything.
“It was strictly God and adrenaline that got me through it,” she added. “People ask me ‘Do you know how many compressions you did?’ I have no idea. ‘Were you tired?’ I don’t remember.”
It’s what she did remember that saved her husband’s life.
“God bless Beverly!” Michael said, adding he hopes everybody who knows them or hears their story learns from their experience. “Learn CPR. Strangers and, more importantly, your family may need to depend on it.”
The Red Cross offers a wide range or CPR/AID/First-Aid training courses. Find an upcoming class near you by visiting redcross.org/take-a-class.
Beverly’s story is part of the Heroes for the American Red Cross series, where local, everyday heroes are honored for their compassion and courage. Learn more at redcross.org/sloheroes.