By Stephanie Heckman, Red Cross Public Relations Intern
On May 12, Tim Reichel, American Red Cross AmeriCorps member, was given the opportunity to help a family in need. After volunteering with other AmeriCorps members at a “kids day” for Fairfield County Fairgrounds, Reichel began driving to his home in Canton, Ohio.
While on Route 70 near Zanesville, Reichel stopped his car. All of the cars on the road came to a complete stop due to an accident ahead. Reichel was sitting in his car, a marked Red Cross vehicle when he was interrupted by a loud thumping on his window. Reichel opened the window to find a distressed and frightened man.
The man asked Reichel, “Are you the Red Cross?” He responded and asked the man what he needed. He told Reichel that his daughter was ill and needed help. Reichel walked to the vehicle behind to examine the daughter. The 17-year-old girl was lying down in the back seat, unresponsive, with her eyes closed.
Reichel asked the girl’s parents, “Does she have any allergies? Is she diabetic?” The parents responded “no” and told Reichel that they were returning to Pittsburg from a Mother’s Day dinner. Because there were no working cell phones nearby, a parked trucker called for 911 on his radio.
While the trucker called for help, Reichel examined the girl again, as she was not responding. Her chest was rising, signaling that she was now breathing again. He asked her parents if he could prop up her legs to prevent shock. After which, he went back to the Red Cross vehicle to grab oversize gauze pads to wet down with drinking water and place on her forehead.
Reichel asked the mother to squeeze her daughter’s hand and make her comfortable while waiting for the emergency responders to arrive. Soon after, a local fire department had come through and opened up traffic to let the EMS responders through. After giving his Red Cross card to the father, he asked to be updated on this case.
The next day, Reichel checked his voicemail messages where he received a message from the father. The father said that EMS determined that his daughter had a seizure. She was life-flighted to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital where doctors determined that she had a cyst on her brain, which can cause seizures. The family is now discussing plans with the neurological team to remove the cyst.
“I can’t thank you enough for your help last night with our daughter. It was such a blessing that you were there as my wife and I were paralyzed with fear and concern,” the father said. “Thank you so much for your efforts. I will be making a donation to the American Red Cross in your name.”
Reichel began volunteering the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. During his time at the Red Cross, he served in 12 national disasters from North Daktoa and Texas to Hurricane Sandy in New York.
Last September, Reichel joined the Red Cross as a full-time AmeriCorps member, representing Disaster Services for a term up to two years. “I’m very proud of my AmeriCorps team,” he says. “Whenever one of us needs help, we always help one another.”
Reichel says that 70% of AmeriCorps members are “right of college” although he is a “bit older.” He says, “I thought that possibly using my life’s experiences, I could coach some of the younger ones right out of college. Not everything comes out of a textbook, life experiences play a big part doing that.”
Reichel advises everyone to keep up date with CPR and First Aid certification. “This isn’t about me. This is about being prepared,” he says. “I was in the right place at the right time. Anyone who was put in my posiiton, whether another AmeriCorps member or a staff member, they would have done the same thing.”
“I’ve always had the spirit of wanting to give back. I felt that through the AmeriCorps and the Red Cross that I could do that.”
AmeriCorps is national service program administered by ServeOhio.