CPR-savvy retired airman saves boy's life
July 14, 2003
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Joe Roginski is a believer in cardiopulmonary resuscitation — a technique sometimes called “the breath of life.”
The retired Air Force master sergeant learned CPR during his 20 years in the Air Force. Several times each year, he teaches others the lifesaving procedure for the American Red Cross office here.
On July 6, Roginski, 57, applied what he knows to save the life of a Japanese youngster.
While at his flea market booth in Hachinohe, about 12 miles south of Misawa, Roginski said he heard a “thump” from a busy street nearby.
“It sounded like a car hitting somebody followed by the screeching of tires,” said Roginski, manager of Misawa’s USA Federal Credit Union. “Somebody began yelling, ‘It was a kid.’”
Moving toward the street, Roginski said he saw the lifeless body of a boy who appeared to be about 5 years old lying in the roadway.
“The driver must have been going pretty fast; it looked like the kid was thrown about 40 feet,” Roginski said.
He recalled that no one in a group on onlookers seemed willing to come to the child’s aid.
“They just stood around looking,” he said. “I remember from my Red Cross training, you should do something.”
Roginski said the youngster didn’t appear to be breathing when he reached his side.
“He was on his back,” he said, “his arm and leg in a very bad looking position; he was unconscious.”
Roginski detected what he described as “a weak pulse” and instructed a woman standing nearby to call an ambulance.
“I began rescue breathing and exhaled one breath into the kid, and he started to have a spasm. Then, his chest began moving,” Roginski said.
Monitoring the strengthening beat of the child’s pulse was gratifying to him, he said.
“I felt his pulse getting faster and faster, then he started crying because he was probably in a lot of pain,” he said. “I knew he was going to make it.”
The boy’s mother, “quite hysterical,” according to Roginski, was first restrained by spectators, then came to her son’s side to calm him. A Japanese ambulance arrived soon after to transport the child to a hospital.
Roginski didn’t realize the gravity of what transpired until returning to his flea market booth.
“I started shaking and had to sit down in my car to compose myself,” he said.
A Hachinohe police traffic division spokesman said Friday that no arrest had been made and the accident is still under investigation. The child, whose name was not released, remains hospitalized.
Roginski said a Japanese concessionaire at the flea market told him the child was in critical condition but was expected to survive.
Misawa’s American Red Cross station manager Lewis Van Tassel said he plans to recommend Roginski for a Red Cross lifesaving award.
“One of the reasons we offer CPR classes is because it empowers people to take action when they find themselves in situation like Joe did,” Van Tassel said. “Who knows what would have happened if he didn’t provide those rescue breaths?”
It wasn’t the first time Roginski put his CPR training to use in an effort to save a life.
About 26 years ago, Roginski was on active duty when he used CPR on a friend pulled from the waters of Mutsu Bay near Misawa.
“But he didn’t make it,” he said.
Roginski said he constantly reminds fellow members at the Misawa Military Retirees Association of the values of knowing CPR.
“I’m just plain happy the kid pulled through,” Roginski said.
CPR training is offered here as part of an eight-hour basic first-aid class for adults and children, he said.
Reservations for classes can be made by calling 226-3016.
— Naoko Sekioka contributed to this report.