Loves Park Woman Fights Rare Heart Condition with Help from Illinois Red Cross

Four years ago, Brenda Hill was working hard at a job she absolutely loved. She worked in the billing department at Metro Medical Services, an ambulance company in Loves Park, IL, a neighboring town to Rockford. It’s a company, she says, that felt like family.

That same year, 2016, Brenda began volunteering at the Red Cross, even getting certified in CPR. She was happy and healthy. At 57 years old, she went to the gym three days a week, mowed her grass often, but by August of 2016, she could hardly get through her lawn without feeling short of breath. That’s when she started having health issues.

She was originally misdiagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and underwent six months of chemo. By January of 2017, she was diagnosed with a rare heart condition called Cardiac Amyloidosis, a condition where your body makes too much protein, attaching to vital organs. It stiffens the heart so it can’t pump. Only One out of 5,000 people are diagnosed with it.

Brenda says, “I remember saying to my doctor, ‘Well at least I don’t have cancer.’ And she said, ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but you probably wish you had’.”

One month later, would be a day she’ll never forget. Brenda says she woke up with horrible stomach pain and began throwing up blood. Immediately, she called her team at Metro. They came lights and siren to take her in the ambulance to the hospital. She arrived at the ER, and woke up three days later, intubated. She went into cardiac arrest, twice, and couldn’t walk.

The Red Cross was there to help save her life, as she received six units of blood.

“If I didn’t have blood, I would’ve died,” Brenda says. “I have a strong faith, but if you look at the big picture, I would’ve died.”

Today, Brenda gets chemo every two weeks, to keep the protein levels in check. She says that most people with Cardiac Amyloidosis often don’t make it more than 10 years. Some don’t make it past a year.

“It’s hard living with a terminal disease,” Brenda says. “I look at things differently. I always tried to be a decent human being. Now, I try to give back. Everything means so much more, time spent with my grandchildren, my kids, my friends.

“It (an illness like this) messes with your head, and you have to be really strong to not let it get you down and to try to maintain as much normalcy as you can,” Brenda says. “I wake up each day and thank God each day that I’m awake.”

Talking to her, you can tell her faith plays a major role in her outlook on life. She says her pastors and counselors have helped her through it. Her children and grandchildren are who she lives for.

While she can no longer volunteer on site, she’s stayed busy during the coronavirus pandemic, sewing masks for people and assisting the Red Cross, from home, in any way she can. This also includes administrative work for the American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois.

“From the moment I met Brenda, I felt the warmth and sincerity of her spirit,” says Leslie Luther, Executive Director of American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois. “She is a grateful and proud recipient of the Red Cross blood products. It was for this reason she wanted to give back to the Red Cross. I couldn’t ask for a more compassionate person willing to help wherever needed.”

Once the coronavirus pandemic slows, Brenda plans to continue speaking to medical schools about Cardiac Amyloidosis, to help educate future doctors on the disease. This week, she’ll attend the Brenda Hill Red Cross Blood Drive, in Rockford, on June 30th, and hopes to encourage those who are healthy to donate blood. It saved her life, and it could save others, too.

“There’s always someone that’s worse off than I am, that’s going through 10 times what I am,” Brenda says. “So, I try to be humble and grateful for what I have.”

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

American Red Cross Always There in Times of Need: Meet a Volunteer Behind our Lifesaving Mission

Emergencies don’t stop, neither does the American Red Cross. To carry out our mission, we rely on dedicated volunteers who are committed to serving others in time of need.    

Let me introduce you to Betty Jumonville, R.N., who for nearly 30 years, has dedicated her life to the service of others as a volunteer with the Red Cross. She began volunteering with the Adams County Chapter in Quincy, Illinois in the early 1990s.  Betty first joined as a board member and Blood Services volunteer and later joined disaster operations as a member of the Disaster Action Team, providing assistance to families affected by home fires and other disasters.  Betty along with her husband, the late Dr. Alcee Jumonville, responded to many disasters locally and nationally, including the Great Flood of 1993.

As a Red Crosser, Betty continues to wear many hats! She has educated families about fire safety through our, Sound the Alarm Campaign. Betty is the Chapter Disaster Health Services Lead and Regional and National Disaster Health Deployment Coach, training health workers who are new to the Red Cross. She is also a Disaster Health Services Instructor, teaching Blessing-Rieman College Student Nurses about the process involved in helping people affected by disasters and have a better understanding of deploying as a healthcare worker.

Through Betty’s experiences with many different activities at the Red Cross, she is able to mentor other volunteers and new paid staff, one of them being myself.  I find her to be a valuable resource because she is always willing to share her knowledge and experience. 

Betty has an inspirational story of help and hope.  She graciously devotes her time to further the Red Cross mission every day. “It sounds selfish, but my Red Cross work helps me as much as it helps others,” she stated.

Thank you, Betty for your many years of service and loyalty to the Red Cross.  Working with you is a privilege.

Interested in becoming a volunteer like Betty?  Visit to find opportunities to support people affected by disasters big and small.

Written by Red Cross Volunteer, Pam Shaffer

Happy Birthday, Dr. Drew!

It’s hard to understand the work of the American Red Cross without learning where its system came from. The American Red Cross blood program of today is a direct result of Dr. Charles Drew’s groundbreaking work in developing large-scale collection and processing and storage of human blood and plasma products during World War II. Today is his birthday!

1947. Washington, DC. Dr. Charles R. Drew medical director of the first American Red Cross blood bank. Credit Scurlock/NMAH.

Dr. Drew was an African American physician and blood transfusion researcher in the early 20th century. He was a dedicated scientist and educator pioneering in blood collection and plasma processing. He laid the foundation for modern blood banking and revolutionized the medical profession.

In a recent interview with CBS This Morning, Dr. Drew’s daughter says her father felt called into medicine after his sister died in the 1918 Spanish Flu.

In 1938, Drew received a Rockefeller Fellowship to study at Columbia University and train at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. There, he continued his exploration of blood-related matters with John Scudder. Drew developed a method for processing and preserving blood plasma, or blood without cells. Plasma lasts much longer than whole blood, making it possible to be stored or “banked” for longer periods of time. He discovered that the plasma could be dried and then reconstituted when needed. His research served as the basis of his doctorate thesis, “Banked Blood”.

In 1940, Drew received his doctorate degree, becoming the first African American to earn this degree from Columbia. He was also the first African American examiner for the American Board of Surgery.

September 1940. New York, NY. Dr. Charles R. Drew (left) is shown here with doctors, nurses and drivers from a mobile unit of the New York Presbyterian Hospital. The purpose of this mobile unit, the first of its kind, was to collect blood plasma under the “Plasma for Britain” program. The only other person identified in this photo is Dr. Darrell Shaw (second from right), of the Presbyterian Hospital.

During World War II, the American Red Cross called on Drew to head up a special medical effort known as “Blood for Britain.” As the first medical director of the Red Cross blood bank, he organized the collection and processing of blood plasma from several New York hospitals, and the shipments of these life-saving materials overseas to treat causalities in the war. According to one report, Drew helped collect roughly 14,500 pints of plasma.

The “blood mobiles” you see today were also a creation of Drew’s. His discoveries, and his work in organizing and administering blood banks, continue to save countless lives today.

Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, we’re seeing the experimental procedure that transfers blood plasma from a coronavirus survivor into the bloodstream of a patient still battling the disease is among the most promising treatments amid the pandemic. We can credit Dr. Drew for this, as well.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

Feeding Bloomington-Normal: American Red Cross of Illinois teams up with United Way of McLean County to feed thousands during coronavirus pandemic

The American Red Cross has been a longtime partner of United Way, dating back to the 1950s. So, when they saw an opportunity to jump in and help feed thousands in the Bloomington-Normal community during the coronavirus pandemic, they didn’t waste a minute. The American Red Cross of Illinois is assisting, logistically, to feed folks, offering their vehicles and volunteers to help pick up food from stores, pack food in warehouses and deliver it where it needs to go.  

With the help of the American Red Cross of Illinois, United Way of McLean County (UWMC) has established a successful COVID-19 Community Care Fund, addressing urgent needs. Food access and food insecurity were two of the biggest issues. Since March 30th, UWMC and existing initiatives in the community have provided meals to school district food programs, including five school districts, purchasing over 900 pounds of fresh produce from local farms for LeRoy, Unit 5, Lexington, Olympia and Ridgeway. They’ve also purchased bread and chicken broth from Meijer and Kroger to help feed over 500 families a week.

Lynda Hruska is the Executive Director of the American Red Cross serving Central Illinois. She says this partnership has been impactful to the volunteers.

“It has really been a way for our volunteers to be a part of this incredible work that this team is doing. Often times in a disaster, we’re in the lead role. We’re sheltering, feeding, and in this one, we are using volunteers to plug in to a community-wide project. It’s been very heartwarming to be part of this huge network seeing different people playing different roles and truly making a difference.”

Aside from school food programs, the Red Cross and United Way are partnering with existing initiatives to purchase boxed meals from local restaurants to support their employees and distribute those meals through local non-profits. As of May 8th, they’ve served more than 44,575 meals!

And of course, nothing goes to waste. The Red Cross volunteers go back to the warehouse and pick up any unused perishables and deliver them to Home Sweet Home Mission so they can be utilized without waste.

But UWMC and the Red Cross agree the effort doesn’t stop here. This team has continued to look at not only the initial food insecurity issue, but other human issues that are facing the community as a result of this pandemic. With help from partners in the community, they’ve provided and distributed over 500 food boxes, locally, and more than 300 face masks to distribution volunteers, to keep them safe and protected during this project.

The need continues. The Red Cross is here, and will be here, to help our communities.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

National Nurses Week: Dan Luthi uses compassionate approach to assist in disaster relief

Dan Luthi, BSN, RN is a volunteer for the American Red Cross of Central Illinois Chapter in the Illinois Region. He serves several critical Red Cross functions to deliver vital services, providing relief and support to those in crisis.

Luthi is a Regional Disaster Action Team Coordinator and dispatch officer who takes both daytime and nighttime shifts. He calls down volunteer teams for disaster response to families and individuals, often for home fires at all times of day and night. He also serves as a responder himself, using his nursing skills as he visits with disaster clients needing health services. In this fiscal year alone, he has responded to 21 disasters. Out of 501 open response cases, Luthi helped on 167 of them. During 2019, he answered 20% of all disaster calls.

Individuals and families are in dire need of care, resources and support during and after these devastating events. Families end up displaced from their homes as a result of these disasters. The Red Cross provides immediate care and support, and with Dan Luthi’s leadership, we are able to carry out our mission with utmost compassion and excellence. His leadership is also a forced multiplier as he trains additional volunteers in response roles that serve all 78 counties within our region.

Luthi has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2013; he is one of the region’s most dedicated volunteers, frequently putting in 20+ hours per week volunteering while still working full time as a pediatric nurse and continuing his education. Since the beginning of 2020 alone, he has already served almost 250 hours of volunteering for the Red Cross.

Dan Luthi started his volunteer career with the Red Cross during a tornado that struck Washington, IL in 2013, assisting in the shelter that was opened.

At the time he was quoted saying, “I’m here because I’m interested in helping my local community. It’s important for me to see that neighbors are taken care of and that they get what they need, whether it is medication or a hug.”

From that point onward, Luthi has dedicated his time, incredible service and talents to serving those in need in his community. But his community has broadened through service to all 78 counties in the region as well as support for volunteers who deploy nationally.

Luthi also acts as a mentor and teacher to Red Cross staff and volunteers. His style of sharing information and knowledge is thorough, contextual and kind.

More recently, Luthi responded to a fire that occurred in a trailer park in Goodfield, IL. Five individuals perished in the fire, including three small children. He responded to the incident with much compassion and worked with the surviving clients for several days to ensure all their health services needs were met. The following month, the trailer park manager requested that the Red Cross come out to be sure that everyone in the park had working smoke alarms. This was an important step to the community’s healing. With Luthi’s ability to be compassionate, professional and thorough, he was the ideal person to send on this important mission. He led a group of Red Cross volunteers who went into the community and installed free smoke alarms.

Dan Luthi was nominated for a Governor’s Award for his service, which he truly deserves, as proven by his extraordinary record of compassionate volunteer services to the people in need in his community and beyond.

During COVID-19, our mission hasn’t changed, but the way we carry out services looks different. Dan is part of that continued effort, serving as the Southern District’s Response Lead. He oversees the responses for COVID-19. He makes sure the team is following protocol by wearing masks, while also preparing exercises to be done. His additional support for Health Services is also valued.

We are always looking for hardworking volunteers to fulfill our mission at the Red Cross. If you’re interested, visit

Written by Kendra Henson, Regional Volunteer Services Officer Sondra Hayes, Regional Direct Services Program Manager Katelyn Trunnell, Individual & Community Preparedness Manager

National Nurses Week: Tina Johnston Reflects on Four-Decade Journey as Red Crosser

Most people would say 44 years is a long time to be with one company. But for Red Cross Volunteer Nurse, Tina Johnston, her time with the Chicago chapter has been well spent.

She started in 1976 as a staff nurse in Nursing and Health Programs, teaching mother and baby care, supervising student nurses, teaching families how to care for loved ones at home, even blood pressure clinics. After years on staff, she transitioned to a volunteer nursing role, and it’s been that way ever since.

“Hearing stories about nurses that went to war and nurses that did all these wonderful things, I wanted to have a career outside of what seemed to be the careers at the time, which were teaching and secretarial work,” Tina says. “I didn’t want to do either of those things.

Her nursing journey started long before the Red Cross. In 1957, Tina graduated from LA County Hospital’s nursing school in California, got married, and later moved to Washington D.C., earning her bachelor’s degree from Federal City College in 1975. One year later, she and her family moved to Illinois.

“The local hospital would only hire me for nights, and I didn’t want to work nights,” Tina says. “There was an ad for a nurse for the Red Cross, and I applied. I went on an interview and they hired me.”

She hit the ground running with the Disaster Health specialists team. Since then, Tina has traveled across the U.S. and internationally to provide disaster relief, including Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Hurricane Iniki in 1992, the Mississippi floods in 1993, Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, and 9/11. During 9/11, Tina led the health service group that traveled to New York City, working with patients in the hospital and their families. The work included medical care, but personal care as well. She remembers one woman in the hospital asking if anyone could wash her hair, so she could get the grit from the buildings out of it. The Red Cross paid the bill.

Tina says, “It’s about the contact with the clients, their problems, the things they need for us to solve, and being able to reassure them. You get so much variety. You see so many things. The good, the bad and the ugly. But most of the time it’s the good and the very good.”

It may be 44 years since she’s started, but if you know Tina, she isn’t slowing down. Before COVID-19, she was still going into the office two days a week to manage the health service team, organizing trainings, and working from home the rest of the week. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s staying busy, too, with plenty of phone calls at home. Oh, and did we mention she has five grandchildren? She’s very proud.

Four decades as a nurse, you can imagine she’s seen it all, but Tina says being a Red Cross Nurse has opened her eyes to the good in the world.

“There are a lot of really good people in the world, and there are needy people in the world,” Tina says. “And there are needy people that are just as anxious to help other people as they are to get help for themselves.”

The Red Cross is always looking for eager volunteers to fulfill our mission. If you’re interested, visit

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

Robert King Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Good Samaritan Hero

On the Saturday of Easter weekend 2019, Robert King decided to take the scenic route home from work. “I remember the day so clearly. It was a beautiful, sunny evening and I hopped on Lake Shore Drive to take some time and enjoy my ride home,” noted Robert. 

A 20-year automotive sales professional, Robert had finished a busy day selling cars and was looking forward to getting home. While driving near Soldier Field, Robert saw a green and white ambulance with lights flashing, quickly speed by him. He continued on Lake Shore Drive for a short time and again spotted the green and white ambulance, but this time it was smashed and had been “T-boned” in a major accident. While other traffic whizzed by, Robert pulled over to see if help was needed.

Three people were standing near the ambulance when he pulled up. Robert asked if everyone was alright and if they needed any help. One of the men standing on the side of the road asked if Robert could take them to the hospital. Without hesitation, Robert said, ‘no problem’ and told them to hop in his car.

One of the men started to load several coolers and boxes into Robert’s car. Then two people hopped into the car and said to Robert “‘Can you take us to Northwestern hospital? We don’t have time to wait for another ambulance,’” he recalled. 

It was in that moment that Robert learned the emergency vehicle was actually an organ transplant van on its way to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a surgery. In the coolers were a liver, a kidney and a pancreas that one of the men in the vehicle, Dr. Kofi Atiemo, an organ transplant surgeon, had just removed from a young, deceased donor.

Time was critical to get the organs to the hospital, as organs are only viable to be transplanted within a few hours.  Kofi informed Robert that patients were already prepped for their transplant procedures back at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, waiting on the organs that were now in his car.  

Robert said, “I thought they were loading their lunch or some equipment into my car. Once I heard about the transplants, I did not know whether to speed up or drive very carefully to the hospital.”  Robert said his nerves kicked in and he focused on driving the organs very cautiously to their hospital destination.

“There were lots of people just driving by, but Robert was willing to stop,” says Kofi.

“I stopped that day because that is what I would hope people would do for me, my wife, my family,” said Robert. ‘It was simply a good deed for my fellow man. I was brought up to help people and to live by the golden rule.”

That day, Robert’s good deed unexpectedly helped to save more than one life.  Quite an accomplishment, for a scenic drive home after a day in the office!

For the first time in 18 years, coronavirus caused the cancellation of the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, but stories of resilience and determination prevail. These “Everyday Extraordinary Heroes” live among us. Watch their stories every Tuesday & Thursday starting April 14 at 10 a.m. in social media.

You can support the American Red Cross during this Coronavirus outbreak at

Rosie Quinn Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Youth Hero

“Love your body. Bald is beautiful.” are two of the first things bubbly, nine-year-old Rosie Quinn says when you meet her. Rosie, whose chipper voice espouses much wisdom for her young age, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, alopecia, at two years old. This occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss and baldness.

In so many ways, Rosie is your typical child. She is in third grade and says “softball, swim team and piano lessons are my jam.” Yet, having been bald since she was 2 years old, dealing with curiosity and stares of strangers has taught Rosie to rise above and kindly navigate the inquiries; smiling, introducing herself, quickly explaining alopecia and closing the conversation with “what makes you different?”

While Rosie never felt the need to hide her bald head, at times she grew weary of the explanations. Rosie’s mother Paula said the family placed their focus on “raising a little girl who loves herself unconditionally, hair or no hair.” Making colorful and lively drawings and paintings are also Rosie’s jam. One day Rosie’s mother had a brilliant idea and decided to take one of Rosie’s beautiful paintings and have it printed as a headscarf for Rosie. 

Her goal was twofold. Rosie would be proud to wear her beautiful artwork and perhaps the focus of strangers would be on the beautiful scarf and not on Rosie’s hair loss. The family surprised Rosie with a head scarf using one of her prized paintings. Paula said, Rosie “was overjoyed, and quickly blurted out, ‘What about the other bald kids? We should make these for all the bald kids who look like me. Can we do that?’”

Rosie’s mother discovered that any drawings could be printed onto fabric – creating custom headwear for those facing challenging hair lines. From this realization, the Quinn family put together a plan for creating scarves and capes ‘for the other bald kids’ and started the non-profit, Coming Up Rosies. The mission is to restore confidence, happiness and pride to anyone struggling with low self-esteem during their medical journey, especially bald children.

Rosie, her six-year-old sister Caroline, her mom and dad assemble “smile kits” at their dining room table. The kits have all the creative tools needed for children to make their own scarf or cape. Since 2016, they’ve donated 1,500 smile kits to 20 hospitals and rehabilitation centers around the country, including Lurie Children’s Hospital where Rosie began her medical journey. Lately, the word about the indomitable Rosie, is really getting out. Orders for smile kits have started to come in from as far as Canada, Ireland and Australia!  

 “When I put on the headscarf, I’m confident. I want to give all the other kids facing baldness this confidence too. It is my goal to give ‘smile kits’ to all the bald kids in the world,” Rosie beams.

For the first time in 18 years, coronavirus caused the cancellation of the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, but stories of resilience and determination prevail. These “Everyday Extraordinary Heroes” live among us. Watch their stories every Tuesday & Thursday starting April 14 at 10 a.m. in social media.

You can support the American Red Cross during this Coronavirus outbreak at

Phil Hemmeler Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Law Enforcement Hero

In his nearly 14 years with the Palatine Police Department, Detective Phil Hemmeler had never experienced a situation like the one he faced on June 7, 2019.

Phil was in his squad car having lunch when he heard on his radio that a vehicle had crashed into a brick wall of a strip mall. The shopping plaza happened to be the same one where he was currently parked. Phil immediately went to the scene where he saw a white sedan impaled into a brick wall of an empty retail space. Phil could see smoke coming from the car and as he approached the vehicle, he also noticed that the car was lodged deep into the wall which consequently was blocking both of its front doors. 

The smoke was getting very heavy, so Phil proceeded to open the back-passenger door of the vehicle to access the unconscious driver and try to get him out of the car. Phil was successful in undoing the man’s seatbelt. However, the space was too narrow to pull him out of the car.

“The smoke was really starting to fill up the car [and] I was trying to hold my breath, trying to give him voice commands like ‘hey, I want to get you out,’ ‘it’s on fire’ and he wasn’t responding,” said Phil. He explains, the smoke was so heavy that it became hard to see. At that point, the fire had surrounded the driver and Phil could see the driver’s feet burning. The flames were also spreading to the visor above the victim’s head, burning his shoulders and head. Phil recalls thinking he needed to figure out a different way to get the injured driver out of the car. That is when he and other officers that had just arrived at the scene decided to use a tow strap procured by a manager from one of the business near the accident.

Phil, with assistance from others at the scene, secured the tow strap to his squad car, a Chevy Tahoe, and to the vehicle on fire. After three attempts, he was able to pull the vehicle out. Now able to open the driver’s side door, Phil tried to get the man out of the car but was met with resistance. “I couldn’t get around him, I couldn’t get in the car far enough to get the leverage to pull him out,” explained Phil. He remembers trying to put the fire out as much as he could from around the man’s face and head and using fire extinguishers until the fire department arrived on the scene. Firefighters were then able to pull the man out of the car with the help of special equipment.

Later that day, back at the police station, Phil got in touch with the man’s family. A few days later, while visiting the victim in the hospital, Phil had the opportunity to meet the man’s son who shared how grateful he was that his dad had made it alive.

For the first time in 18 years, coronavirus caused the cancellation of the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, but stories of resilience and determination prevail. These “Everyday Extraordinary Heroes” live among us. Watch their stories every Tuesday & Thursday starting April 14 at 10 a.m. in social media.

You can support the American Red Cross during this Coronavirus outbreak at

Lauren Trylovich Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Emergency Medical Assistance Hero

When Amena Karim’s sister, Rasheda Kahn, became unresponsive, she immediately called 9-1-1 and the emergency phone operator, Lauren Trylovich, answered her desperate call for help.

Lauren first asked Amena to describe her sister’s condition and the situation. Amena told the dispatcher she was clammy, not moving and was breathing ‘like she was snoring.’ Trylovich was able to successfully assess Rasheda’s condition and knew the labored breath meant that time was critical. Lauren told Amena, “Ma’am, listen to me, this is very important – somebody needs to start CPR on her right now.”

Lauren continues, “We were able to then go to work, essentially, and position her sister for CPR.” She then started to provide Amena with instructions on how to perform CPR:

Trylovich: “So she’s flat on her back?”

Karim: “Yes, she’s turning blue.”

Trylovich: “All you have to do is put your palms on the center of her chest, push down hard and fast – just like how they do it on TV.”

With Lauren’s instructions, Amena was able to stabilize her sister until paramedics arrived, without any prior experience or training in CPR. “She empowered me to help my sister, but also, she was very empathetic and effective,” Amena said about Lauren.

“This call was memorable because Amena remained calm and took every direction I gave her on the phone,” said Lauren. Her calm, quick thinking demenor made the differnce in helping to stabalize Rasheda and save her life.

Lauren is a trained paramedic and as been working at the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications for four years – taking intense calls like Amena’s. On a regular eight-hour shift Lauren will get 200-300 calls – cardiac arrests, shooting victims, stabbings and injuries are all part of her day to day response. Lauren says “I rely on my training as a paramedic each day. I visualize the response (over the phone), because I have actively handled live emergencies firsthand.”

A few months later, Amena would have the opportunity to express her gratitude to Lauren on the phone and later in person. As for Lauren, when asked how often she gets a call from someone who wants to thank her, Lauren said: “Never. In my entire career, this has never happened.”

For the first time in 18 years, coronavirus caused the cancellation of the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, but stories of resilience and determination prevail. These “Everyday Extraordinary Heroes” live among us. Watch their stories every Tuesday & Thursday starting April 14 at 10 a.m. in social media.

You can support the American Red Cross during this Coronavirus outbreak at