Saving Lives from Top to Bottom

August 02, 2018


Michelle Ewanio was honored with the American Red Cross Life Saving Award after she and a colleague worked together to save the life of a Buehler YMCA member."

Every single employee at the YMCA of Metro Chicago — not just the lifeguards — is required to take CPR training.

Last May, that policy saved a man’s life.

Michelle Ewanio works the front desk at the Buehler YMCA. One morning, she heard someone call for help, and found a member having a heart attack in a nearby hallway. Ewanio raced into action — immediately asking the front desk to call 911. She and a colleague administered CPR until paramedics arrived, and were credited with keeping the man alive until he could be transported to the hospital.

“You have no idea how important the training is until you’re in the middle of a situation,” Ewanio says. “It can happen anywhere and everywhere. Lifesaving techniques come in handy when you least expect it.”

The YMCA implemented the policy requiring comprehensive training in CPR/AED/First Aid and Child Abuse Prevention for all employees in 2010. “People come to the YMCA for our programs, and we promise them safety and wellness,” Malone explains. “We should do everything in our power to ensure they stay safe while they’re here with us.”

After Ewanio’s heroic act, a supervisor nominated her for an American Red Cross Life Saving Award, which she was awarded in March 2018. The American Red Cross gives this award to “recognize a lifesaving act performed by an individual who utilized skills learned through Red Cross health and safety training.”

Ewanio recognizes the crucial role all employees play in the safety of the YMCA members. Earlier this year, fitness personnel at a different facility responded to a similar situation, where another member was also in cardiac arrest. Even outside of the YMCA, Ewanio stresses the importance life-saving training.

“Being in that situation changed my outlook,” she says. “I told my daughter she has to be CPR-trained before she starts babysitting, because it truly can happen anywhere.”