European edition, Wednesday, May 2, 2007

RAMSTEIN, Germany — Karen L. Ventrice spotted scattered debris, a shoe and then a man lying in the middle of the autobahn.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dawn Erdmann heard a woman running down a hallway at Ramstein lodging saying a man was trapped in a car and hunched over the steering wheel.

That’s how separate and unforgettable events began for the women. But that’s not where they ended. Moments later, each would perform first-aid measures they taught as instructors for the American Red Cross.

On Tuesday, Erdmann and Ventrice each were honored with the Red Cross’ Extraordinary Personal Action award and the prestigious National Certificate of Merit. The awards were presented during an American Red Cross volunteer recognition ceremony at Ramstein Air Base.

The clock read about 6:45 a.m. on May 6, 2006, as Ventrice and a friend were driving to the Homburg flea market and came upon a single-vehicle accident. After pulling over and assessing the situation, Ventrice grabbed from her car a first-aid kit, blankets and her daughter’s soccer shirt to use as bandages.

The injured motorist, who was German, was bleeding from his head. He had cuts to his chest and his right arm was nearly sheared off below the elbow. A few men stood over him but were not providing aid.

Ventrice, a Red Cross volunteer and instructor for eight years, applied pressure with towels to the man’s head wound in an effort to stop the massive bleeding. Cars drove past within a foot of Ventrice as she and her friend administered aid in the middle of the autobahn. The women said “Hail Marys” aloud.

Ventrice provided aid to the man for about 30 minutes before she was relieved. By that time, she was soaked with blood. She later learned that the victim had survived without suffering brain damage.

“When you use a little bit of skill that you learned from our programs, it can go a long way, and it saved this gentleman,” Ventrice said.

On a Friday afternoon in March, Erdmann rushed out of her office at Ramstein lodging to aid a man who sat hunched over the steering wheel of his locked car. Moments later, a man who works with Erdmann used a transformer to smash the car’s window.

Erdmann, of the 435th Services Squadron, unlocked the door, opened it and felt for the man’s pulse. There was nothing. She and a reservist pulled the man out of the car. The unconscious man had turned blue.

Erdmann, a Red Cross cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructor, began CPR. After a few minutes, the reservist took over with Erdmann still giving breaths. The ambulance arrived, but the man had died.

“I’m proud to be recognized, but I think I’d probably feel better if he actually survived,” said Erdmann, wiping away tears.

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