2021 Red Cross Central Illinois Heroes

Jennifer ErlandsonHealthcare Hero

Jeni has been a nurse for more than five years at St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, Illinois. For her, every day at work is different.  She works 12 hour shifts in the surgical unit, in addition to attending graduate school at Maryville University, with plans on becoming a nurse practitioner.  

“We’re trained to do a little bit of everything. I can’t say I have a typical day as a nurse, but it’s nice not doing the same thing over and over,” Jeni explained. 

On June 10, 2020, during her shift, she noticed a colleague, Gregg Pensky, who worked at the pharmacy, hunched over and not breathing on a chair. 

“As soon as I walked off the elevator and turned, I was probably no more than 15 or 20 feet away, and I could tell instantly something was wrong. When I’d walked past previously, he was upright and on his phone. And when I came off the elevator on the way back up, he was slumped over, and his phone was on the ground. He was not awake, not responding to anything,” remembered Jeni. 

She immediately began CPR and asked a passerby to contact the hospital operator  to call a Code Blue, which is a cardiac or respiratory arrest emergency that cannot be moved. Thirty seconds later, another nurse arrived to assist Jeni. They continued to alternate doing chest compressions until the response team could arrive. 

When the doctor came to the scene, the man was quickly intubated for oxygen and hooked up to an IV, while lying on the floor. 

“There was a lot going on at 7a.m. It was the first thing that happened in the morning,” Jeni said. 

She had a very small window to act, and before she knew it, the whole situation was over. 

“We had 20 people available to help, so it was very quick. I would say less than a minute and a half,” Jeni recalled. 

A few days later, she received a text from one of the doctors who had treated Gregg, letting her know that he was off the ventilator and breathing on his own. 

“Being able to give his family another birthday, another Christmas, another holiday season, I think that’s very, very special,” Jeni said. 

She received a Daisy Award for extraordinary nurses because of her heroic action. 

Jeni has been awarded the 2021 Red Cross Healthcare Hero Award for her lifesaving act and is very grateful for being nominated by the family. 

“It’s an honor that anybody views me as a hero. I just did what was right and was in the right place at the right time.” 

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Matthew Pontious

Jerrylee Murphy-WilesLifesaving Rescue Hero

Jerrylee Murphy-Wiles was walking to his bus stop in Peoria, when he heard someone shouting for help in the distance. After examining his surroundings, he identified where the yelling was coming from and found an elderly woman pounding on the window of her home. It appeared she had fallen and wasn’t able to get up on her own. Jerrylee could tell she was in desperate need of assistance, and immediately dialed 911. 

“Before I called, I tried to get in the front and back door, but they were both locked,” Jerrylee said. 

He thought it was best to keep the woman distracted until first responders could arrive, so he stayed with her, keeping her company from outside her window.  

“He is a very spirited 24-year-old who loves to interact with other people, so I’m sure he talked that woman’s ear off,” said Tim Lingenfelter, Jerrylee’s Mentor at EP!C, an organization of community members working to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Paramedics told Jerrylee that if it wasn’t for his heroic instinct, the woman could have passed out and not made it. 

“When they said I saved her life, I thought of my grandma. I was very proud of myself,” Jerrylee mentioned. 

Jerrylee works in the kitchen for EP!C. A few days later, when his colleagues heard of what he did, he was greeted with a big surprise when he walked into work.  

“Everybody was excited for him. When you walked down the hallway, it’s about two miles long and you could hear everyone talking about it. We couldn’t be prouder of what he did,” recalled Doris Hayes, chief operating officer of EP!C. 

Jerrylee was given a plaque and coin from AMT and Pekin Police for his efforts that day. In addition, the Red Cross is honoring him as one the Lifesaving Rescue Heroes for 2021. 

“It’s big to me. It’s very big to me because I love helping people,” Jerrylee said.  

“I think it shows that Jerry cared more about somebody else than he did himself. He very easily could have just kept walking to work and never looked back and he didn’t do that,” added Hayes.

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Matthew Pontious

Roger KingLifesaving Rescue Hero  

On November 26, 2020, Roger King, his wife Julie, and their two-year old grandson were driving through Pontiac, looking at Christmas lights. They noticed a house on fire, with flames coming out of one of the windows, and Roger’s wife recognized the home.  She was familiar with the resident, and knew the woman who lived there was elderly, as she was her mother’s friend.  
“I got out and I asked if anybody [had] knocked on the door. I asked [those at the site] if they knew if anybody [was] home and they really didn’t know for sure,” Roger stated. 

At this point, Roger realized people were possibly trapped inside, so he started knocking on the door. Moments later, a woman came running down the stairs to open the door, saying she was the caretaker of the resident. Roger explained to the woman that the house was on fire. Without hesitation, he ran upstairs with the caretaker, woke the elderly woman, and assisted her out of the house.  

“The smoke wasn’t super bad on the second floor yet. I was more concerned about the people upstairs than my own wellbeing,” Roger recalled. 

It was chilly outside, so Roger’s wife took the elderly resident with her to the car to keep her warm and wait for help to arrive. 

Shortly after, firetrucks arrived to put the fire out, and Roger was questioned about the situation from the fire department. A couple days later, he received a call and was told the house did not have working smoke detectors. 

As a result of Roger’s heroic effort and quick thinking, he was able to save not one, but two lives that evening. 

“I just did what I thought anybody else would do. I did what needed to be done,” Roger explained. 

A few months later, he was notified that he had won the Red Cross Lifesaving Rescue Hero Award. 

“I was pretty excited. I mean, it’s not something that happens every day,” said Roger. “It’s always easy to say what you’re going to do, but when it actually happens, it’s a totally different story.” 

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Matthew Pontious

Josh RaileyLifesaving Rescue Hero  

Josh Railey and his girlfriend Megan were out celebrating his birthday dinner on February 28, 2020. As they left the restaurant, Josh and his girlfriend noticed a burning car that had slammed into the median. Although the car was barely visible through the smoke, he noticed two people escape and run to safety. As Josh got out to further observe the situation, he saw a woman kick the door open and crawl out.  

“I immediately ran over to help her, but she insisted I get her baby that was still trapped inside,” Josh said. 

Thankfully, someone else had stopped their car to help the women get away from the vehicle while Josh searched. The car was engulfed in smoke and he struggled to see inside. He ran over to the other side, cut open the deployed airbags with his pocketknife, and patted around the back seats. 

“At first, I was worried because I didn’t feel anything. I wanted to check the front seats just to be safe and sure enough, the baby was still in the carrier between the driver and passenger chairs,” Josh recalled. 

He quickly grabbed the baby and ran far enough out until he knew they were safe.  

“I didn’t really have time to think about it. The whole thing felt like a few minutes, and I had to act fast,” Josh said. 

By the time he got down the road to return the baby, people had pulled over to see what was going on. Josh waited with them until police arrived. The mother of the child was unable to stand, so Josh handed the child over to one of the female police officers. He gave them a brief description of what happened, was thanked for his actions, and told he and his girlfriend could go home.  

“My night felt kind of surreal after that.I don’t even think we watched TV.  We were still trying to process what happened. It was a lot to take in,” Josh remembered. 

Within days after the incident, word got around about Josh’s heroic act. A local news team showed up at his work and wanted to interview him about the story, and he was soon nominated for a Red Cross Hero Award. 

“I don’t like to consider myself a hero. I’m a pretty humble guy and was just trying to help,” Josh said. “I hope to inspire people to do the right thing when the time comes.” 

Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Matthew Pontious

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