Volunteer Rick Daitchman reflects on time at Red Cross and milestone blood donation

Over the years, Rick Daitchman has dedicated a lot of time to the Red Cross through volunteering and donating blood. His parents inspired him to serve others.

“My father and mother were always helping people. That’s one of the things that I remember. They treated people right and helped,” Rick says.

Rick’s drive to help others stems back to when he was a college student during the Vietnam War.

“I got lucky,” says Rick. “I had a high number in the draft and didn’t get picked. I have a lot of friends who went to Vietnam and aren’t here anymore, so I just decided to give back to those people.”

Rick’s been volunteering with the Red Cross since 2009 but has been donating blood for almost 30 years. Most recently, Rick donated his 60th unit of blood!

“I don’t really think about it as a big deal anymore. I just think of it as something I look forward to. And I like the cookies! I like the experience and I like to joke around with the staff,” says Rick.

As a volunteer, Rick has worked with Disaster Cycle Services on the Sound the Alarm campaign and was also one of the first volunteers to be part of the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). This program provides information about Red Cross services to military recruits and families before they are deployed.

Thanks to the Red Cross, Rick is trained in first aid and CPR. And since he retired at the end of 2020, he looks forward to spending more time volunteering.

To become a volunteer like Rick, please visit redcross.org/volunteer. You can also make an appointment to donate blood at redcrossblood.org.

Written by Doreen Fosco, Communications and Marketing Intern

Red Cross Greater Chicago Chapter Honors 2020 Wesbury Award Recipients

The Wesbury Leadership Awards were established in 1991 to honor Stuart A. Wesbury, a former Chicago Red Cross Board Chair, health care professional, and outstanding community leader who epitomized humanitarianism and partnership in his professional and volunteer life. This award was created to recognize those who enhance the visibility of the Red Cross by helping us deliver our services and messages of health, safety and preparedness. 

On June 25th, the Red Cross Greater Chicago Chapter recognized a media partner, corporate donor, long-standing Tiffany Circle leader and a dedicated Red Cross volunteer in the first ever “virtual” Wesbury award ceremony at the Annual Board meeting on June 25th. Each has honored the legacy of Stuart Wesbury and has significantly enhanced the visibility of the Red Cross and our lifesaving mission through their dedication and diligence.

ABC 7 is a dedicated media partner and was honored with the Media Wesbury Award this year for their partnership to the American Red Cross and our blood services mission. 

  • Since 2015, ABC 7 has hosted the “Great Chicago Blood Drive” and has grown this drive from 430 units collected in a single location to more than 1,830 units collected in four locations across their Chicago viewing area. 
  • In 2020, the ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive became the largest single day blood drive in the entire American Red Cross
  • ABC 7 promotes drive appointments by airing compelling blood stories of people in need, combined with PSA’s asking people to sign up.
  • During the day of the blood drive ABC talent – including Chicago board member Cheryl Scott, Mark Rivera (pictured left) and Hosea Sanders (pictured above right) – report from 5 a.m. to well past 7 p.m. –from the blood drive, letting walk-ins know they are welcome, reporting on the need, and interviewing government officials including Governor Pritzker and Lt. Governor Stratton in 2020. 
  • ABC 7 also involves other media partners who similarly sponsor the Great Chicago Blood Drive including Univision, I-Heart Radio and Clear Channel enabling the blood drive and its messaging to emblazon the Chicagoland area. 

John Idler, President and General Manager of ABC 7 Chicago, accepted the 2020 Media Wesbury Award on June 25th at the Annual Meeting. John is, pictured above with Red Cross Greater Chicago board member and ABC 7 Meteorologist, Cheryl Scott and Red Cross of Illinois CEO, Celena Roldán, at the 2020 ABC 7 Blood Drive.

Zebra Technologies has been a long-time partner of the American Red Cross and was awarded the 2020 Corporate Wesbury Award. Zebra is known for building enterprise-level data capture and automatic identification solutions that provide businesses with operational visibility. Their partnership encompasses significant generosity through the donation of time, blood and financial resources.

  • The Red Cross is proud to have been selected as one of Zebra’s three strategic partners. During times of disaster, Zebra activates employee giving campaigns in addition to corporate gifts.  In 2019, Zebra added a giving component to their annual sales kick-off conferences, engaging employees in the Red Cross mission, and ultimately donated nearly $50,000. 
  • Zebra also understands the importance of giving blood and has hosted several successful blood drives, and created a video to share their commitment to saving lives, and as a Lead Partner of the Missing Types blood campaign.

Therese Van Ryne, Global Director – PR, Thought Leadership & Advocacy of Zebra Technologies Corporation accepted the 2020 Corporate Donor Wesbury Award on behalf of Zebra Technologies.

Tiffany Circle member and leader, Laura Linger, was also honored with a 2020 Wesbury Award.

  • Laura has a long history of supporting the Red Cross. She joined the Tiffany Circle in 2012 and. since then, her generous contributions have qualified her for the elite recognition society named for longtime Red Cross Board of Governors Chair, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter.
  • Laura was recognized not only for her generous financial contributions, but also for her service to the Red Cross. Locally, Laura serves as a Co-Chair of the Greater Chicago Tiffany Circle Steering Committee. This chapter dates back to the founding of the Tiffany Circle in 2005. She also serves on the Tiffany Circle National Council along with other dedicated women who oversee the strategy and direction of the Tiffany Circle and serve as ambassadors of the American Red Cross. Lastly, she is  Co-chair of the Tiffany Circle National Council Chapter Chairs Forum committee!
  • Laura has introduced countless new donors to the organization, many of whom have become Tiffany Circle members like her mother, her sister, and her niece, just to name a few!

The Red Cross consists of 90% volunteers, and in the Illinois region, we have almost 4,000 volunteers. This year, we were proud to honor a key volunteer in the Chicago & Northern Illinois area, Hank Welch, with a 2020 Wesbury Award.

  • Hank has been a volunteer for four years and he regularly (pictured left) goes above and beyond to extend the reach of the American Red Cross in our community.
  • He continually leverages his connections on behalf of the Red Cross to create new partnerships and help people in need. Many of these partnerships have led to new installation events for the home fire campaign.
  • Hank is a Disaster Action Team Manager and is the Regional Lead. He also is a Duty Officer and a Public Information Officer. On top of all of that, Hank has stepped up into a leadership role as the state-wide Regional Feeding Lead, where he is utilizing his expertise in food handling and management to help us create contracts with vendors for disaster feeding. 
  • Hank is constantly mentoring and training new volunteers, is willing to join in on nearly any activity within the region and is always available with a listening ear. His positive, can-do attitude lifts others up.

We are humbled to honor these outstanding individuals on behalf of the Greater Chicago Board of Directors with a 2020 Wesbury Award. Each recipient serves the Red Cross in so many different mission capacities and embodies the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross.

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 Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.

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 Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.

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 Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.

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 Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.

Rochelle Crump Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Military Hero

Rochelle Crump served in the Women’s Army Corps during the Vietnam War (ERA). She received the National Defense Service Medal for honorable service during a period of national emergency (Vietnam) and a Certificate of Recognition from the Secretary of Defense for military service during the Cold War. Rochelle has always had a heart for her veteran family and worked for 23 years for the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Having witnessed the difficulty facing many women veterans upon returning home, in 2005 Rochelle and several women veterans founded the National Women Veterans United (NWVU), a volunteer-based organization for women veterans and those in active duty, reserve duty, and national guard. The NWVU is one of few organizations across the nation with a mission that includes assisting women veterans in navigating the complicated systems of Veterans Affairs Hospitals and benefits.

“After a deployment, veterans do not come back the same (person), families don’t understand what they have been through or what they have seen. It is the role of the NWVU to help female vets understand they are not alone,” Rochelle says. “Veterans have VA benefits, but the bureaucracy is complicated to navigate, we ease this burden.”

The NWVU is a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ The organization also assists disabled women veterans through peer support programs and helps women veterans who are homeless or housing insecure to find housing, management services, and wellness support programs to help them get back on their feet. The NWVU also works with many women veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), depression and other mental health challenges, promoting hope, wellness and recovery. They also support military families, whose mother may be deployed or may have returned from active duty. The NWVU hosts a variety of programs including art therapy, plant-based healthy cooking, and financial literacy programs. In 2018, NWVU developed a partnership with the Women Business Development Center and the United Relief Foundation to assist military women entrepreneurs. 

In 2015, NWVU opened the only Military Women Veterans Center in the state of Illinois. On September 7, 2019, NWVU renamed the center in honor of Sergeant Simone A. Robinson, an Illinois soldier who died as a result of an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Sergeant Robinson’s daughter was two years old at the time, and the NWVU has mentored her and helped her family for the last seven years.

The ultimate goal of the NWVU is “to make sure female veterans maintain their independence, get the support and assistance they deserve, and ensure the women veterans who served so well are included as part of history – they all deserve that,” Rochelle states.

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 Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.

Lt. David Chmelar & FF/PMD Chad Tinsley Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Firefighter Heroes

On June 30, 2019, Lt. David Chmelar and Firefighter Paramedic Chad Tinsley, along with other members of the St. Charles Fire Department, responded to a call of a disabled boat that was getting dangerously close to going over the Fox River dam.

FF/PMD Chad Tinsley and Lt. David Chmelar

As soon as they reached the river, Chmelar and Tinsley got in the rescue boat and hurried towards the disabled vessel, “I remember that I told our command which was actually our chief [Joe Schelstreet] that we were en route downriver to the disabled boat, and he asked right away what our ETA was, so we knew that they must be getting close to the dam,” says Chmelar.

The boaters had been caught in a severe storm with an abrupt downpour and high winds. Their anchor was not holding, and the strong winds from the approaching storm were blowing the boat increasingly closer to the dam. 

It took about a minute for the firefighters to reach the stranded boaters. As they reached the people on the boat, a couple with their teenage son, both Chmelar and Tinsley remember how terrified the family was, “The look on their faces, they were really scared and very thankful for us to get there,” observed Tinsley.

The firefighters positioned their boat next to the disabled vessel, tied off quickly and helped the three passengers into the rescue boat and started back up the river, leaving the disabled boat behind. About 40 seconds later, the boat tumbled over the dam, crashed and capsized.

Firefighter Tinsley says that they are used to rescuing stranded boaters, but nothing to the extent of what they witnessed that day with a boat so dangerously close to the dam, “our job was just to get to them in time and get them off the boat and it all just worked out, thankfully,” adds Tinsley.

Thanks to the firefighter’s bravery, the family was quickly transported to the dock where paramedics attended to them. The victims were wet and distressed but had no physical injuries.

This incident has started dialogues between the Fire Department and the St. Charles Park District to identify ways to encourage increased boating safety in the community. Together, they are also exploring new ways to notify boaters of potentially dangerous conditions on the water.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we could have had fatalities that day,” retired Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet said.

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 Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.

Dr. Kaleem Malik Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Disaster Services Hero

For twenty-five years, Dr. Kaleem Malik has been a physician specializing in emergency medicine and trauma. In medical school, Kaleem decided to focus on emergency response to “do the most good and administer to the needs of many.” Trained early on as a Flight for Life physician, he witnessed the severity of emergency medicine and the sanctity of life each time he boarded a helicopter and administered to a critical needs patient. This vital work inspired Kaleem to dedicate his life to emergency medicine, and to focus on serving Chicago’s most vulnerable and providing critical and life sustaining care, where empathy is of the utmost importance.  

As a volunteer for Humanity First USA, a nonprofit organization that provides disaster relief and development assistance in 52 countries across 6 continents, over the past 17 years, Kaleem has held leadership roles including Chief Medical Officer. He is currently the U.S. Course Director and Faculty lead for Medical and Global Disaster Relief Training. Kaleem is also a practicing emergency staff physician with the DuPage Medical Group and is the CEO of TriLab, an academic lab partnering with healthcare systems to combat the U.S. opioid epidemic, a crisis that Kaleem has witnessed firsthand impacting “a vulnerable population with a stigma that has dehumanized.”

Kaleem has volunteered for many global disaster emergencies with Humanity First USA, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake, 2010 Pakistan floods, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, hurricane Katrina and more. Despite the tough medical disaster situations he has encountered, his time as Medical Lead for Humanity First USA in Coopers Town [Abaco, Bahamas] challenged all his disaster relief skills.

Hurricane Dorian was one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the Bahamas, causing at least 70 deaths and widespread destruction. Kaleem and Humanity First USA were part of the first medical relief team invited to the Coopers Town Clinic on Great Abaco Island, one of the islands hit hardest. They were summoned by the Bahamian Ministry of Health, the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization, based on their ability to nimbly and effectively assist in the devastating humanitarian health crisis. Within 48 hours of the hurricane making landfall, Kaleem and his team of 10, spent all night packing four tons of medical equipment and flew to the Bahamas where the death toll was increasing, and the health crisis was escalating.  Hundreds of people were trapped on the Abaco islands including many undocumented Haitians who were afraid to heed the evacuation warnings.  

“This particular disaster, in my experience, contained all of the elements that we train for,” he said. “There was a paucity of resources, primarily communications, so no way to get word out. No power, running water.”

After a 13-hour boat ride to Abaco, Kaleem and his team, along with their four tons of medical equipment, were tasked with restoring a badly damaged clinic on Abaco Island. The team brought medicine, tents, food, generators, pumps and a desalination unit to help provide drinking water. The devastation, destruction and debris on the island was unfathomable. “you would think a nuclear bomb had gone off,” said Kaleem. The clinic had major roof and water damage, no water, power or cell signal and the team began near-impossible tasks of cleaning and sanitizing the flood damaged clinic, while prepping sterile conditions to see patients. Sleeping on the clinic floor, cleaning again and again after rain continued to pour in and caring for the many patients, was difficult, but Kaleem and his team persevered.

The need was so great, that Kaleem extended his initial 5-day deployment to nearly 12 days and returned only because he had to leave for Guatemala on another relief trip, where he and Humanity First USA had opened a hospital. Kaleem serves as the chair of the emergency department and administers medicine in remote Guatemalan villages. 

In between disasters, Kaleem and his wife are raising three teenage daughters who have accompanied their dad on some medical missions and training programs. Kaleem also serves as Humanity First USA’s Course Director for Disaster Response Training, where he prepares others to deploy on humanitarian relief missions. What Kaleem is most proud of is “training (others)… It is the key to disaster response, scalability is what I have focused on the last 10 years, working to mobilize others and get them excited to go, to be that spark that may inspire empathy.”

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 Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.

Ivan Escobar Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Nurse Hero

Nursing was not Ivan Escobar’s initial career path. After working for 10 years in pest control, he opted to go back to school with the intention of transitioning to law enforcement.

Ivan enrolled at Malcolm X College and set out to complete his associate degree in law enforcement. While in college, Ivan had a change of heart and transitioned to nursing, “I think nursing really was my calling without me (initially) knowing,” says Ivan, who at the time was also working at St. Anthony’s Hospital as an Emergency Room Technician.

Ivan has always had the compassion and commitment required of a nurse. On September 28, 2019 Ivan’s compassion and commitment were truly challenged. On this cloudy day, Ivan and his 13-yeard-old son were driving in Humboldt Park to pick up Ivan’s mother and take her to a family gathering. Suddenly, they heard gunshots and a woman’s scream, which seemed to be coming from a vehicle near their car. Instead of rushing away from the scene, Ivan turned his car around to check on the occupants of the impacted vehicle, which had come to a sudden stop.

Fearing for his son’s safety, Ivan told him to stay in the car while he got out to check on the people in the other car. As Ivan opened the driver’s car door, he saw a screaming woman clutching a little girl on the passenger’s side, and found a man on the driver’ side bleeding profusely from the head, “I grabbed the little girl’s teddy bear that was in the car, and I applied pressure on his forehead,” recalls Ivan, who had just become a registered nurse only three weeks prior to the incident.

The shooting had wounded a 44-year-old father who was driving with his wife and three-year-old daughter, who Ivan noticed was in a princess costume. The man was hit in the face by a stray bullet, according to the police report following the incident.

Ivan stayed with the victim until paramedics arrived and kept talking to the man, who despite being shot between the eyes, was conscious and responding to Ivan’s questions. At the same time, Ivan was also trying to calm down the man’s wife and daughter who continued to scream in shock. 

A few days after the incident, Ivan visited the man and his family and brought a special gift to their little daughter, “I went to Build-a-Bear and bought the little girl a nurse bear, I figured to replace her bear that I had used,” says Ivan.

Remarkably, the man made a full recovery because fortunately, the bullet did not penetrate his skull. As for Ivan, he doesn’t consider himself a hero and explains that it would do it all over again if presented with a similar situation because as human beings “we should all just help each other.”

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 Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.