Lifesaver gets her honors, 'in our eyes, she's always been a hero'

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Carla Peterson of Aurelia says she doesn't consider herself to be a hero, but she graciously accepted an unexpected award from the Siouxland Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, which holds a ceremony each March to honor extreme heroism in northwest Iowa. Peterson was cited for her quick actions last summer that saved the life of a 2-year-old Storm Lake boy who had drowned off Bel Air Beach.

The award ceremony recognized 12 individuals and one group that have gone "above and beyond the call of duty to impact the lives of others through a commitment of service or by performing a lifesaving act."

The awards were given in eight categories - education, good samaritan service, lifesaving (18 and older), lifesaving (18 and under) fire and rescue, law enforcement, medical and military.

Peterson was nominated for the award by Bob Christensen, emergency management coordinator for Buena Vista County, and by Marjorie Neulieb. "When I saw something about these awards, I thought of her right away," Christensen said.

Anderson was impressed with the stories of the other heroes. She was particularly moved by the story of the recipients of the lifesaving (18 and under) award - two young boys on a pedal boat who pulled a struggling young girl out of the water and brought her to shore where they called for help.

Peterson urges everyone to be prepared to help when they see someone in danger.

"There are a lot of people out there who wouldn't help even if they could," she said.

Not everyone is going to know CPR but everyone has the capabilities of getting someone who can provide the necessary help.

"Doing anything is better than nothing," she said. "Don't just walk away."

A nurse for 20 years, Peterson reflected back on the day she saved the life of the little boy last summer.

She and her husband Bruce and a friend had been boating on Storm Lake and had just docked at Bel Air Beach when they saw a commotion on the beach. She ran to a crowd to give assistance if needed, not even sure of what the situation was.

"I just knew there were a lot of anxious people and when I got there, people were screaming, 'Does anyone know CPR?' I said I did and the crowd made way for me."

It wasn't until then that she saw the tiny lifeless form of Marquan Brown of Storm Lake before her on the sand.

There was no reaction time, she said, she knew he needed help quick. Of the crowd of some 15 people, she said, it was apparent there were no others that knew how to perform CPR to help her.

She noticed he had a slight pulse and performed artificial respiration five times, and then the boy regained consciousness.

"He responded well and is a lucky little guy," she said. "He was in big trouble."

It was encouraging after three respiration that he started, weakily, breathing on his own. Once he came to, she turned him on his side to get some of the fluids out of his lungs. And then he began to cry.

"I liked the crying - that got him to take some big breaths," she commented.

The ambulance crew arrived and she explained what had transpired. He was transported to Buena Vista Regional Medical Center for observation.

Investigation at the scene determined the child had wandered into the water unnoticed, under the care of a young lady. He was seen floating in the water by another person on the beach who ran to pull him out.

It took some time to reflect on what had really occurred, she said, after it was all over.

She was impressed with the awards ceremony and how the heroes were all treated. Does she consider herself a hero? "Not really," she said. "I am just glad I was there to help him."

But husband Bruce commented about his wife, "She may not be a hero in her own eyes but to us she has always been a hero."

She knows that if a situation occurs again where she can help, she will.

She hopes she's not alone.

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