by Megan Hageman, Communications and Marketing Volunteer
During a recent local event, American Red Cross First Aid Services Team (FAST) volunteer Nick Willeke was called upon to apply his training and skill to a real-life emergency. Every year, Ohio State holds the Four-Miler race at Ohio Stadium for 15,000 runners and walkers. This past October, a runner collapsed mid-race.
“We got called for a runner down. When I got there he had a pulse, but shortly lost it,” said Nick. “CPR was started and I performed three sets of compressions and then Columbus fire shocked the patient, who was a runner, and got a pulse back.”
“It was an adrenaline rush as always, but I just hopped into action and did my duty,” he said.
If you have been to an event at the Ohio Stadium, the Schottenstein Center, or even a festival around the Ohio Buckeye Region, chances are the Red Cross FAST team was also there behind the scenes keeping you safe. FAST is composed of trained volunteers who act as the front-line for any kind of medical emergencies during events. Many of these volunteers hold some kind of professional license and all come equipped with first aid kits, emergency oxygen, automatic external defibrillators, and radios.
Nick has been able to keep in touch with the patient he attended to during the race and the two were even interviewed together at the Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Gala. The Red Cross event is held annually to recognize individuals and organizations that are making a difference within their community. Nick has also recently been honored with the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders.
Ever since the FAST coordinator recruited him four years ago, Nick has continued to be a part of this team. While other members must go through about eight hours of initial training, Nick was able to step right into the program because of his previous experience and training as a lifeguard.
Nick has been a part of many events from marathons, festivals, Ohio State events, and Red Cross-sponsored events. He has also completed many instructor-training sessions to become a trainer for the various courses the Red Cross offers, such as First Aid,Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, and Basic Life Support training.
Although it is always the hope that the FAST team’s skills won’t be required, emergencies just like this are exactly what the volunteers are trained for. Nick was able to be a first responder to the incident and confidently provided his aid.
Nick plans to resume his position on the FAST team and is excited about his future with the American Red Cross. “I of course plan to continue my work with the Red Cross. There is nothing I enjoy more!” he said.
Photo: Nick Willeke (center) tells his lifesaving story to NBC4’s Colleen Marshall at the 2019 Humanitarian of the Year Award.
(This post was updated on 5/12/19 to include the writer’s name.)