Real Heroes lauded for courage

12 years ago
By Scott Mitchell Johnson
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — Brett Spinning of Presque Isle doesn’t consider himself a hero; however, most everyone else does.

Staff photo/Scott Mitchell Johnson

    REAL HEROES HONORED — The 14th annual Real Heroes Breakfast was held last Friday at Northern Maine Community College. Hosted by the American Red Cross—Pine Tree Chapter, WAGM-TV 8/FOX 8 and NMCC, the breakfast recognized several Aroostook County individuals for their courage and kindness. Honored were, from left, front row: Linda Majka, Tina Jandreau, Curtis Gagnon, Jonathan Nadeau and Richard Stoliker. Back row: Kristi Moir of Loring Job Corps, Jeff Stephenson, Bev Cullins, Jean Poitraw, Judy Deschaine, Connor David Nicholson, Tom Deschaine, Brett Spinning, Andrew Peabody, Wendell Wood, Debbie Sirois and Andy Scott of OfficeMax.

    On Feb. 20, 2011, he performed infant CPR to save the life of a little boy who lives in the neighborhood — a selfless act of courage that earned Spinning the title of “Real Hero.”


    The 14th annual Real Heroes Breakfast was held last Friday at Northern Maine Community College. Hosted by the American Red Cross—Pine Tree Chapter, WAGM-TV 8/FOX 8 and NMCC, the concept for the Real Heroes Breakfast has grown out of a desire to develop an event that is closely related to the mission of the American Red Cross — teaching people how to save lives.

    “The Red Cross provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies,” said Joyce Knorr, Aroostook County branch manager of the American Red Cross—Pine Tree Chapter. “This is done through the simple, yet powerful process of one person putting his/her needs aside to help another. Across the nation, over one million Red Cross volunteers do this each day.

    “What better way to celebrate this spirit of humanitarianism than by honoring those individuals who have shown courage, kindness, and unselfish character by their act of heroism in Aroostook County,” she said.

    Spinning and his wife, Amy, formerly of Ashland, relocated to Presque Isle after Brett’s retirement as a U.S. Special Agent and Florida state trooper. As he was watching NASCAR’s Daytona 500, he decided to go outside and stretch his legs.

    “While I was out there, I heard a very distant scream. I didn’t really know which direction it was coming from so I ran down to a corner of the road and I could see the mother who had come out of her house screaming and she was literally hysterical and had her child in her hands,” said Spinning. “I later figured out she was screaming, ‘My child’s not breathing. Help me, my child’s not breathing.’

    “I ran to her faster than I’ve probably ever run in my life. When I got to her, the child was practically thrown into my arms, so I knew right then I needed to do what I needed to do,” he said. “Fortunately through my career I had 17 years of CPR training. As soon as I got the baby, I checked the pulse and there was no breathing or pulse. I immediately used the snow to lower his body temperature to buy time. In Florida, I dealt with a lot of heat strokes and heat-related problems and the first thing you do is cool them down, so it was very similar and having a snowbank right next to you … you couldn’t ask for anything better.”

    After doing about two minutes of CPR on the boy, the infant started to breathe.

    “He looked me in the eye and he was trying to cry the poor thing,” said Spinning. “After I got him warmed up, the paramedics showed up. It was actually a passerby that called 9-1-1 because we didn’t have a cell phone. The whole thing lasted about 10 minutes; however, the CPR part feels like it lasts forever and a day. Once I handed the boy over to the paramedics, I kind of snuck out and went back into the house to watch the rest of the race.

    “I don’t consider myself a hero. To me, our heroes are our soldiers when we’re at war,” Spinning said, noting that he plans to get recertified in both infant and adult CPR. “As far as being there at the right time and having all the training, I’m a religious person and I believe that a higher power was probably involved that day. I think it wasn’t the baby’s time and God made sure of that.”

    Among others recognized as 2012 Real Heroes were:

• Jeff Stephenson of Mapleton and Bev Cullins of Sherman.

    As a local UPS driver, Stephenson had no idea he would use his American Red Cross life-saving training while on the job. While making a routine delivery at Katahdin Elementary School last May, he heard someone yelling to dial 9-1-1. He discovered that the school’s maintenance man had suffered a heart attack and had collapsed. Cullins, the school nurse, had begun CPR treatment. Stephenson rushed over to assist her by helping to perform breathing, compressions and used an AED to save the victim’s life. The victim was rushed to Houlton Regional Hospital and later transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center. Today the victim is doing well and is very appreciative for their life-saving skills. Had it not been for Stephenson’s and Cullins’ efforts, the victim would have died.

• Andrew Peabody and Wendell Wood, both of Houlton.

    Peabody and Wood were traveling back to Houlton from a meeting in Presque Isle one day last May. As they drove past the Blue Moose Restaurant on U.S. Route 1 in Monticello, Peabody spotted someone on an ATV careening down the trail bed and hitting a tree, ejecting the rider onto the railroad tracks and then skidding into an adjacent bog. The rider’s body lay limp and still. Peabody knew it was more than a minor spill and asked Wood, who was driving the car, to slow down and turn around.

    Peabody immediately dialed 9-1-1 and while on the phone with the emergency responder, got out of the car with Wood and ran to the spot of the accident to describe the scene. The injured woman was barely conscious and laboring hard. Her leg was pushed up and out in an unnatural way leading Peabody to believe she had suffered a compound fracture. Her entire body was positioned in an “inhumanly-like fashion” and he could see a laceration up to her breastbone. Peabody realized she was in serious condition. The 9-1-1 responder coached them and told them not to move her, but to keep talking with her to keep her conscious as long as possible.

    The two men found a blanket to cover her and continued talking to her until the Houlton EMS arrived. The victim was on a ventilator for weeks suffering a broken leg and several ribs, and had severe cuts to her abdomen and other internal injuries. She was in rehab for several months. Five months after the accident, Peabody and Wood received a thank-you letter from the victim expressing her gratitude for saving her life.

• The family of the late Jared Voisine, 29, of Frenchville, was also recognized at the breakfast for honoring his wishes to be an organ donor. Proud to be a donor, which can be done by ensuring the organ donor symbol is marked on a driver’s license, Voisine died in a car accident Oct. 30, 2011. Only a four-hour window was available to get the needed organs to the recipients, which was a massive effort. Today, a 63-year-old man has a healthy, beating heart; a 66-year-old man has healthy lungs; a 58-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman have working kidneys; and a 14-year-old boy has a healthy liver. Voisine’s cornea, skin, bone and other tissue will be processed and used at a later time to help heal others.

    For the 11th time, Rene Cloukey, sports director at WAGM-TV, was the master of ceremonies.

    Proceeds from the Real Heroes Breakfast will benefit the local Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. More than 225 people attended the breakfast making it a record-breaking year.