CareLink team members went above and beyond to save the lives of program participants during two harrowing incidents that occurred at the agency’s residential sites over the summer.

Staff Responds Quickly to Fire

On June 5, an alarm pierced the evening silence at CareLink’s New Jersey A+ apartment complex in Clementon. A program participant had just turned in for the night when she was startled by the sound.

Maybe it’s a fire drill, she thought. When she walked down to the staff office and asked Residential Counselor LaToya Robinson about the alarm, LaToya responded that there wasn’t a fire drill scheduled. The two returned to the apartment to investigate.

CareLink’s New Jersey A+ apartment complex in Clementon.

A smoke detector was going off inside the apartment. LaToya asked about the resident’s roommate, and the resident said she thought she was asleep. When LaToya knocked on the roommate’s bedroom door, it felt warm. She opened the door and immediately saw fire. The roommate was in bed, unable to escape.

LaToya called 911 and alerted Residential Counselor Deltraye (“Traye”) Smith. Traye and a building maintenance worker, who also lived in the complex, each grabbed a fire extinguisher and started dousing the flames until firefighters arrived. Staff later found out that another participant had also called 911.

The roommate was rescued from her bedroom and other CareLink residents evacuated. New Jersey Regional Director Jen Petro arrived on the scene while the fire marshals were inspecting the apartment.

“Everyone involved in responding to the fire was a hero that night—the resident who alerted staff, the resident who called 911, LaToya, Traye, the maintenance worker, and the firefighters,” Jen said. “It would have been much worse if the resident hadn’t alerted staff or if Traye hadn’t started to put out the flames.”

While the fire and water damage wasn’t as extensive as it might have been, the apartment is undergoing a full renovation. In the meantime, the resident who alerted staff to the fire has been temporarily transferred to another apartment. Her roommate is receiving medical care as she recovers from burns and smoke inhalation.

”This incident is a great example of how much our staff cares and how they work together to solve problems,” Jen explained. “The quick thinking and decisive action on the part of our dedicated team truly saved lives.”

Staff Saves Resident from Choking

Residents in the STAR 1 Program in Norristown, PA, were eating dinner the evening of July 16. As usual, staff had helped the residents decide if they wanted to eat the meal being served at the program or order takeout from a local restaurant.

Eldridge Emerson

One resident decided to order his favorite hoagie, but while he was eating, he started to cough. He hurried over to a water fountain in the dining area and drank to try to clear his throat. Residential Counselor Eldridge Emerson noticed that the resident was acting strangely. He walked over and asked if he needed help.

At that point, the resident fell into Eldridge’s arms. Realizing the man was choking, Eldridge immediately began performing the Heimlich maneuver. Paul Taylor, the weekend shift supervisor, jumped in to help while STAR 1 Program Supervisor Becki Levan called 911.

Eldridge and Paul continued with back blows and abdominal thrusts to try to clear the resident’s airway. As the two staff members worked, the resident lost consciousness and stopped breathing. Once a rescue breath was performed prior to starting CPR, the resident gasped for air and regained consciousness.

Paul Taylor

Recalling the incident, Becki said, ”The ER doctor told me that our staff saved the resident’s life. He said we would have been having a very different conversation if Eldridge and Paul didn’t act as quickly as they did.”

CareLink staff are well-trained to handle emergencies, but Eldridge and Paul truly went above and beyond. The resident later thanked Paul for saving his life, saying “I’m still here because of you.”

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