Loudon County Project Lifesaver is blossoming, project volunteer Florence Parker said to describe the nonprofit organization's evolution in Loudon County, and the community is taking notice.
A recent incident proved true for Parker's analogy. She was recognized Tuesday for her part in responding to a medical emergency in May that involved one of Project Lifesaver's clients. Parker serves as an assistant coordinator and instructor for Project Lifesaver, a volunteer organization based at the Loudon County Sheriff's Office that strives to provide swift services for locating missing individuals with a tendency to wander, such as those with autism, Alzheimer's and other mental illnesses.
In May, Parker and a fellow Project Lifesaver volunteer were on routine patrol changing out 30-day batteries in clients' wristbands. When the two arrived at a home, they found the autism client unresponsive. The young woman had an allergic reaction.
"She ran to me and I took her back into the house and I took her into a room where I could lay her down flat," Parker said. "I had Margie stay with her. I came out and called 911 from the kitchen phone and went back in and put Margie on the phone so they could get information as I was saying it to her because the phone cord did not reach in to the room.
"I was talking to the client, but I wasn't getting a reaction," Parker said. "She was not responding at all really, so I started to give her CPR and shortly after that the EMTs arrived and stabilized her and took her to the hospital. It was the doctor that made mention that had we not given cardiopulmonary resuscitation, had I not have given CPR she would not have made it."
Parker stressed Project Lifesaver is not an alert system. Clients wear a bracelet with a tracking device for Project Lifesaver volunteers to quickly locate wandering clients. The local organization last week installed longer-lasting batteries in clients' tracking bracelets and a system that increases the detection range from one to three miles.
"How I feel is just extremely humbled, proud of what I have learned and proud of how I was trained," Parker said. "I could not employ full CPR because the young woman was losing consciousness, so I had to abort all the technicalities and breath into her mouth and nose as best I could," Parker said.
Chief Gene Saunders and Assistant Chief Tommy Carter from Project Lifesaver International were also on hand Tuesday to honor Parker's lifesaving efforts.
"Several months ago I received an email from a gentleman ... and he was outlining the actions of Mrs. Florence Parker on May 26 of this year," Saunders said. "It was his belief, and I tend to agree with him, that because of what she did and the actions she took that his daughter ... is here today. She recognized what was going on with anabolic shock and took immediate action. This stood out. This was something that was beyond."
Project Lifesaver is not the only first responder role Parker, a Tellico Village resident, plays in the county. She also volunteers with the Loudon County Citizens Observer Patrol, providing an extra set of eyes and ears in Tellico Village.
"I have experience in security in my adult life," Parker said. "We actually have a second home, my husband and I, in the Middle East and have been in country for quite a while, for several years on a medical. My husband is a consultant, but I handle some security projects."
Parker stressed the element of success for Project Lifesaver and any emergency situation is dialing 911. From the 911 call, dispatch alerts Project Lifesaver volunteers, who in turn respond to the place the client was last seen and tune equipment to that particular client's bracelet frequency.
"The one we're talking about here we've had to look for her a couple times before Project Lifesaver, and it took several hours for the deputies and what not," LCSO Deputy Mel Hines, who also serves as the local Project Lifesaver coordinator, said. "In the last time we've got a signal we found her in 18 minutes, so there is a lot of difference between 18 minutes and three, four and five hours."
There are currently five clients with Loudon County Project Lifesaver.
"We are very proud of how our equipment has found these people, and it gives a peace of mind to the caregivers because we have this equipment," Hines said.
Project Lifesaver is in its third of year in Loudon County. The local organization relies strictly on donations.
"I heard someone describe this to me once," Parker said. It starts in a sleep. It's like when you put a plant in the ground it sleeps. The next year you see it creep; it starts to come back. We're in our third year, the leap. The plan is really doing well, and a lot of people know of us and hospitals are familiar with us and that type of thing so we are definitely in our growth year."
"This is a great day for Loudon County," Sheriff Tim Guider said. "We have been, if you will, put on the map. ... This is a fine example of one of (our) volunteers."
"Once we go through the extensive training I would say some people do it for passion, some for maybe rejuvenation of their abilities or whatever, but I just think that particularly (I joined) the Project Lifesaver program is because it's the right thing to do," Parker said. "It adds a peace of mind to the family, to the caregivers."