Diane Calamaras Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Blood Services Hero

IL-Blood-Services-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – When young patients with blood disorders and their families come to Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital for their regular hemoglobin treatments, they can count on seeing a familiar face. Many have grown up knowing Diane Calamaras, APN, as the nurse practitioner who’s been at their side since their first blood transfusion.

“Without these treatments, they would not be able to have a good, quality life like the rest of us,” Diane said. “Being able to help them achieve a healthier and more normal life is very gratifying.”

Diane treats up to 70 patients with chronic illnesses each month, facilitating as many as 1,000 blood transfusions a year for infants as young as two months old to adults. They suffer from blood disorders like sickle cell disease, thalassemia and acute anemia. Her patients’ bodies cannot make normal red blood cells, which are necessary to carry oxygen around the body and enable proper growth and development.

“Diane is a hero to her patients, simply because she cares,” said Dr. Alexis Thompson, Hematology Section Head at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “Whether it is a family who is coping with their infant who may be receiving the very first of what will likely be a lifetime of transfusions, or an older child whose transfusions ensure they can remain active without other disease-related complications, Diane provides reassurance, education and compassionate care.”

When patients come to Diane for their regular transfusions, which can be as often as twice a month, they are fatigued, pale and may have debilitating pain. Diane gives them lifesaving blood that puts warm color back in their face and makes them feel better again for a little while. When they see Diane they know they have a friend who’s with them for the long haul.

Diane’s been doing this work at the Lurie Children’s Hospital blood transfusion center since 2002 and has 30 years of nursing experience. She started her medical career as a candy striper when she was a teenager and also worked in nursing homes, but children are where her heart is, and that’s why for most of her career she has served in pediatric care.

“I love what I do. I love that I can help people,” she said. “I never wanted to be anything other than a nurse.”

The Blood Services Award is presented by Walgreens to an individual(s) or organization who promotes community blood donation awareness and helps to build the community blood supply.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

David D. Hiller Honored with American Red Cross 2016 Heritage Award

IL-Heritage-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – In recognition of a long-standing commitment to Chicagoland communities, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is proud to honor the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and its President and Chief Executive Officer, David D. Hiller, with the Heritage Award.

The McCormick Foundation has a notable history of partnering with the Red Cross to improve lives and transform communities. For decades, the McCormick Foundation has honored the intent and value of its benefactor, Colonel Robert R. McCormick – a citizen soldier, crusading publisher and philanthropist who deeply cared for the city. In fact, Colonel McCormick himself was a supporter of the Red Cross, dating back to World War I.

Since then, the McCormick Foundation has time and again come to the aid of Chicagoans in need. In 2013 and again in 2015, when a series of tornadoes ripped through Illinois, ravaging homes and businesses, the Foundation stepped forward with grants of more than $2 million raised from community donations and Foundation financial matches to help hard-hit communities pick up the pieces and recover from the destructive storms.

“When disaster devastates communities, it is our mission to show people they are not alone and give them the help they need to move forward,” said Celena Roldán, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “The support of the McCormick Foundation played a critical role in allowing us to do just that.”

Last year, under the leadership of Hiller, the McCormick Foundation celebrated 60 years of fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens. In recognition of its anniversary, the Foundation partnered with a number of Chicagoland non-profit organizations to build support for their causes in a forward-thinking manner. The special year-long initiative addressed the growing need to help children, adults and families of Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods flourish and prosper.

Under Hiller’s leadership, the McCormick Foundation has also made significant investments to help improve early care and education for children in Illinois. This commitment has enabled Illinois to achieve significant milestones, including being one of the first states in the nation to design and pass legislation requiring principals at pre-kindergarten schools to have a pre-K to 12 principal certificate.

Hiller was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the McCormick Foundation in 2009. He is an engaged member of the community, serving on the boards of the Chicago History Museum, The Field Museum and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. He is also a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Economic Club of Chicago.

The Heritage Award is given to an individual whose leadership and actions greatly enhanced the welfare of our community.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Deepa Sampat,  Resource Development Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Daniel Ivankovich, MD, Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Community Impact Hero

IL-Community-Impact-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – An 80-year-old man recently showed up at a OnePatient clinic in Chicago. He had been pushed down the stairs of his apartment building and suffered a broken arm. With his good arm, he held out a cup of coins and said that’s all he could afford to pay. Regardless of their ability to pay, Dr. Daniel Ivankovich welcomes all patients who need help.

There are 206 bones in the human body, and Dr. Ivankovich has treated thousands of them during his 20-year medical career as an orthopedic surgeon. In 2010, he co-founded the non-profit OnePatient Global Health Initiative. He and his medical team, known as “The Bone Squad,” perform more than 600 surgical procedures a year, healing 100,000 local people with a variety of injuries in three clinics across Chicago.

“Every day we operate and provide care to immigrants and people of minority populations who are unfortunately ignored by the medical system, discriminated against by insurance companies, or have no insurance,” he said. “There is a disparity in the city for people to get basic medical care.”

Dr. Ivankovich relates to his patients on many levels. An immigrant himself, he was born in Croatia and moved to Chicago with his family as a young boy. In high school he excelled at basketball, earning a college scholarship until a knee injury ended his athletic career and required him to eventually undergo 13 surgical procedures. He turned in his sneakers for scrubs, went to medical school, and became a surgeon in the city where his family made their home.

Dr. Ivankovich vows to treat patients in his own backyard regardless of their ability pay. They arrive with gunshot wounds, worn joints, crooked spines, fractures and other injuries, which, if left untreated, could be life-threatening.

“My priorities are here in Chicago,” he said. “This is my community and I took an oath to help people who need it most. I work every day to give hope to a hopeless situation. It’s incredible when you see people taking their lives back and owning their health and wellness. There’s no greater feeling in the world.”

The Community Impact Award is presented by Northern Trust to an individual(s) who displays leadership and commitment to his or her community by making a positive, noticeable and significant impact in society.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Illinois National Guardsmen Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Emergency Medical Assistance Heroes

IL-Emergency-Medical-Assistance-Award-2(CHICAGO, IL) – On May 13, 2015, Sergeant First Class Tony Genovese and Staff Sergeant Reserve Jeremy Adkins watched a car spiral into the air and catch fire at a busy intersection in the South Loop. As combat veterans and active members of the Illinois National Guard, the medical training they learned in the military helped save lives.

“Jeremy shouted, ‘We need to help these people!’” Tony said. “So we jumped out of our car and ran to help. We didn’t know what to expect or how bad it would be.”

When the driver of a Buick tried to pass a Jeep at a high rate of speed, he lost control and hit the vehicle and then the median. Tony and Jeremy watched the Buick roll at least three times before it landed in the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Columbus Drive.

Jeremy first attended to two women in the Jeep who were shaken up, but seemed ok. Moments later, he joined Tony at the Buick, which was in bad shape. The passenger had gotten out and was walking in a daze, while the driver appeared in shock and was struggling and yelling inside the car. Then the driver went unconscious, increasing the severity of an already dangerous situation.

“There was definitely a sense of urgency now as smoke was coming out of the hood and flames started to rise,” Tony said. “We knew there was a small amount of time to get him out.”

Even in an urban environment, Tony and Jeremy were trained for this type of rescue. They were taught while deployed to Afghanistan, when their own convoy was under fire, to get their comrades away from the immediate threat, and then stabilize and treat any injuries.

After failed attempts from both men to kick the window out, Tony found the window rolled down just enough to fit his fingers in, and he pulled the window out, breaking it. This allowed the men to pull the driver away from the burning car and the oil and fluid that saturated the street. They used their hands to brace the driver’s neck until paramedics arrived. The driver survived because of their quick response and first aid.

The two Guardsmen, both from the Chicago area, met while deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and remained friends after returning home. Both remain active in the military.

A recruiter for the National Guard, Tony tells candidates to always be ready. “If you’re at the right place, at the right time, then do the right thing,” he said.

The Emergency Medical Assistance Award is by presented by Motorola Solutions Foundation to an individual(s) who provided lifesaving medical assistance a person or people in need during a time of crisis.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Samer Attar, MD, Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Global Citizenship Hero

IL-Global-Citizenship-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – In the basement of a nondescript building halfway around the world, Dr. Samer Attar risks his life to save others. Even as bombs go off a few feet outside the secret makeshift hospital in Syria, he keeps a steady hand in the operating room. For many innocent civilians who are causalities of their nation’s civil war, Dr. Attar and his medical team are their only hope for survival.

“There were some nights it felt like the screaming never stopped, and there were some days we never left the operating room,” Dr. Attar said. “I operated on children shot by snipers in front of their parents, civilians who had bone fragments of obliterated bystanders embedded in their skin. The day before I left, a little boy whose crushed legs had been amputated asked me to bring him prosthetic limbs if I ever returned.”

With just a backpack of scrubs and his toothbrush, Dr. Attar, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Northwestern Medicine, takes a plane to Turkey and walks across the Syrian border into a war zone. From there, a driver navigates him past checkpoints and sniper alleys to the underground hospitals.

Through the Syrian American Medical Society and Doctors Without Borders, Dr. Attar, who’s been practicing medicine for nearly a decade, has made several medical mission trips to help in field centers in Jordan and underground hospitals in Syria. These facilities are kept secret because hospitals and medical workers are intentionally targeted during air strikes.

Many Syrian medics and aid workers have been kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured and killed, but Dr. Attar is willing to take substantial risk to help the sick and injured. The real danger, he says, is the one against humanity.

“Humanitarian efforts are failing in Syria because access to those who need help is threatened, restricted or denied,” he said. “The world outside is falling apart and we’re in the operating room piecing people back together.”

Dr. Attar said that the Syrian doctors who refuse to abandon their posts are challenged by limited resources of basic supplies like medicine and gauze. They are also faced with shortages of blood, needed to replenish the survivors whose blood is spilled in the streets.

“There are millions of innocent Syrian men, women and children who are sick, starving, displaced or injured, either from deliberate humanitarian blockades or aerial bombardment,” he said. “But I met a lot of good people inside Syria risking their lives to help them. You can’t save everyone, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying.”

The Global Citizenship Award is presented by NES Rentals to an individual(s) who volunteered or worked to meet the needs of the world’s potentially vulnerable populations by building safer, more resilient communities and providing needed relief.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Lazenia Adams Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Disaster Services Hero

IL-Disaster-Services-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – Lazenia Adams of Richton Park saw a news report on television one morning about American Red Cross volunteers helping a family after a home fire.

“A feeling hit me that this could have been my family,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Do I have the time to do this?’ And I said yes.”

An accountant by day, Lazenia did the math and found some time each week to volunteer on the overnight shift from midnight to 6 a.m. Two years later and after having responded to more than 300 home fires as a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, one response hit home. The house her parents owned on the South Side of Chicago where her brother lived on the second floor above renters caught fire. Luckily, no one was home when the fire started.

“Even though I didn’t live there, it felt like it was my home because I spent a lot of time there with my family,” she said. “It was overwhelming because now I really understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of all the people I’ve helped after a fire.”

Lazenia not only responds to fires, she works to prevent them. She became involved with the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, a multi-year initiative to dramatically reduce the number of home fire-related injuries and deaths by installing smoke alarms in homes and teaching families how to develop an emergency escape route. Lazenia has led volunteer teams to install more than 3,000 smoke alarms in neighborhoods south of Chicago near her family’s home.

Two months after installing smoke alarms in the home of an elderly man in Phoenix, a community of 2,000 located about 20 miles south of Chicago, Lazenia was called to a local hospital to help a resident who had been taken there after a fire. Lazenia said the gentleman recognized and hugged her, telling her a smoke alarm she installed in his home a few months earlier went off and he was able to get out.

“I was in tears,” she said. “He told me I’m the one who saved his life. It’s all about helping people in our community. You really can make a difference.”

The Disaster Services Award is presented by W. W. Grainger, Inc., to an individual(s) who exhibited heroic efforts in any or all areas of disaster services including preparedness, response to a natural disaster or emergency situation, or providing relief to victims through financial or voluntary assistance.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Four-Man Crew from Chicago Fire Boat 688 Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Firefighter Heroes

IL-Firefighter-Award-2(CHICAGO, IL) – Miles from shore and fatigued from treading water in the choppy waves of Lake Michigan, a sailboat captain who was tossed from his vessel was preparing himself to die. Just before he slipped below water, the four-man crew from Chicago Fire Boat 688 came to his rescue.

At 10:45 a.m. on July 31, 2015, a distress call came in to 911; a person in a sailboat had been knocked overboard by high waves. Lt. Hans Ziegenbein and his crew members – boat engineer Robert Bloome and divers Christopher Heinz and Felix Serrano of the Chicago Fire Department’s Air Sea Rescue Unit – were dispatched to find the vessel. Using radar technology, they identified a fleeting image 10 miles offshore and four miles south of what was first reported. The vessel had drifted because of strong winds and currents. They found a passenger on board, but the sailboat’s captain was nowhere in sight.

The crew learned from the passenger that the captain was a good swimmer, but he was not wearing a flotation device. With the rough currents and erratic wave patterns, he could have been dragged under water or in any direction.

CFD Crew 688 is trained for this type of search and rescue operation. A 19-year veteran firefighter and certified diver, Lt. Ziegenbein fights fires on land from November to April. In the warmer months, he and firefighters Bloome, Heinz and Serrano patrol the lakes and rivers.

The crew examined the wind and wave patterns to estimate where the captain might have drifted. They changed their course and Bloome steered the boat in the direction of an object sighted on the radar. They found the captain adrift and struggling to keep his head above water. Heinz and Serrano dove into the water and swam to him, pulling him to safety.

Battered by waves and exposed in the cold water for more than 30 minutes, the captain was exhausted from struggling to stay afloat – but he was alive, and the crew brought him to a waiting ambulance on shore.

“He told us that he had given up,” Lt. Ziegenbein said. “He had made peace that he wouldn’t be rescued and he would die out there. For him to feel he was that close to death, and survived – that’s what made this a rewarding rescue for all of us.”

The Firefighter Award is presented by ComEd to a professional, volunteer firefighter(s), or medical personnel related to dispatch operations at a fire department who acted above and beyond the call of duty, exhibiting heroism either in response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Caley Trepac Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Youth Hero

IL-Youth-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – When 17-year-old Caley Trepac of Plainfield was in the hospital recovering from brain surgery three years ago, she found comfort with her family and a special brown teddy bear at her side. For other kids and infants she heard crying in the pediatric ward, Caley wanted to give them the same sense of security so they wouldn’t feel afraid.

“Hospitals can be a scary place for kids,” she said. “There are a lot of people coming in and out of your room. I wanted to give them something comforting to hold on to.”

Caley was diagnosed at age 13 with Chiari, a serious neurological disorder as the cerebellum – the bottom part of the brain – descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord, putting pressure on both the brain and spine. She required surgery to remove a portion of her skull and two vertebrae.

Suffering from headaches, numbness and fatigue before the operation, and the months that followed during her recovery, Caley missed out on school and activities with friends. But she pushed past her pain and thought of ways she could help other kids like her.

One year after her surgery, the Plainfield South High School student started a toy drive in her community to collect stuffed animals. Through social media, Caley spread the word to bring stuffed animals to collection sites at the local library and schools. Caley was overwhelmed by the response of hundreds of donated stuffed animals. She took them to Rush University Medical Center to the delight of many children that holiday season. The next year she collected hundreds more for kids at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital in Cook County.

Since 2013, Caley has collected more than 1,700 stuffed animals for young patients. She put a twist on her remarkable efforts last November, inviting people to join “Stuff-A-Paw-Looza: A Beary Special Cause.” Participants donated just $11 and their time to stuff and build a plush bear, which Caley took on rounds to hospitals for more sick children.

While Caley still struggles with her chronic condition, she’s determined not to let it stop her from living her life and helping others. Now a senior in high school, Caley is looking forward to graduating with her class and attending Illinois State University in the fall. She plans to become a teacher so she can work with kids. Caley still has her brown bear from her hospital stays and plans to take it with her to college to comfort her when she’s away from home.

The Youth Award is presented by ITW to an outstanding individual(s) who are involved in an ongoing situation in which a commitment is made to the community through acts of kindness, courage or unselfishness in response to a need.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Coal City Tornado Survivor: “I’m One of the Lucky Ones”

18958425470_58a7635484_o(COAL CITY, IL) – Marcia Wills was at home watching TV Monday night when the power went out and she heard a loud crash. The next thing she remembered was rescue workers picking her up and taking her to the hospital. Her senior apartment complex in Coal City was destroyed so she couldn’t go home after the storm. But she arrived at a familiar place, First Methodist Church, where she’s a member of the congregation and where the Red Cross opened shelter.

Marcia was greeted by shelter manager Joyce Cook, who got her settled and made sure her medications were replaced. They sit together every afternoon. Marcia’s worried about her neighbors, but Joyce, who located the building manger, assured Marcia everyone is ok.

“The good lord was looking after me. I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Marcia. “My heart breaks for my friends.”

Joyce and the Red Cross will continue to comfort Marcia during her stay and help her find a home.

NEED HELP? If you’ve been affected the Northern Illinois Tornadoes and Storms call our Red Cross call center 312-729-6250.

GIVE HELP After a disaster, financial donations are the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most. If you would like to help those affected by disasters like the recent Illinois tornado outbreak, please visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Story By: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Photo By: dirkfletcher.com