WALLA WALLA -- The theme for the American Red Cross' Hometown Heroes annual breakfast is "Ordinary heroes doing extraordinary things."
Like barging into the locker room of the opposite sex to save a life, for example. "Now that's an act of bravery," said Carmella Phillips, emcee for this morning's event.
Now in its sixth year in Walla Walla, Hometown Heroes is intended to point out we all have the ability to change lives, Red Cross officials told a filled ballroom of attendees at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center.
Indeed, volunteers "who answer the call at 3 a.m.," are those who step out of their regular schedules to help folks in distress deal, Phillips said.
The Red Cross was built on an army of such volunteers, she explained, "which was a faith in humanity."
That faith was rewarded by at least five ordinary Walla Walla Valley residents, who were recognized for heroic deeds, both overt and subtle.
This year's Good Samaritan award was given to Sarah Scarborough for her selfless response and quick action that saved a man's life.
While Scarborough's morning started out average enough March 13, 2009, things quickly changed.
Scarborough, a nurse practitioner with a practice at Walla Walla Clinic's Milton-Freewater office, had just finished her standard pre-dawn workout at the YMCA and was standing at the facility's front counter, she recalled.
It had been an intense session with a trainer and she already feeling the weight of getting through the rest of her day.
That all disappeared when a Y employee told her there was a man down and help was needed.
"I went running. I don't know if it was instinct or second nature," Scarborough, 34, said.
With a hollered -- "Woman coming through!" -- she rushed the men's locker room. At the far end she saw a man slumped in a chair, naked and dripping wet, who passed out just as the practitioner approached.
"I got him down on the floor. He had no pulse and he was not breathing," said Scarborough, who became a nurse in 1998 and a nurse practitioner 10 years ago.
In the meantime, all around her men were continuing to shower, apply lotion and generally ignore the situation, she said, still marveling at that two years later. "I yelled at someone to call 911 and they brought the phone to me."
Her medical training was kicking in and Scarborough issued more orders, asking for a towel to cover the patient for warmth.
Stabilizing the man's airway was harder, she remembered. With emergency medical personnel on speaker phone, Scarborough performed chest compressions.
"On the third one, he started gasping for breath and I thought that was probably a good sign."
She eventually handed the job off to paramedics, who seemed amazed the man had regained consciousness, she said. After being taken to a local hospital, he eventually was flown to a Spokane hospital where he recovered and is back to working out, according to Randy Grant, YMCA director.
Scarborough never learned the man's name, she said, "I wouldn't know him if I saw him, I don't think."
It took hours for the adrenaline to settle back down. "My heart was racing," she said.
"When I got to work and they asked me how it was, I told them, 'There were naked men everywhere,' Scarborough added with a laugh.
But the lesson of the day is no laughing matter, she said.
"I try to make sure my staff and everyone who comes into contact with a patient knows how to recognize when someone is in distress, so help can begin early. We just make a point of working on that every time."
If anyone remembers anything about her story, she hopes that it will be this -- "Remember to dial 911. No one remembers to call 911, that they need to activate emergency help."
Dennis Maughan of Providence St. Mary Medical Center presented Scarborough with a medal, telling the audience "I believe people are placed in the right place at the right time."
Sheila Hagar can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.