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10 ABW, Public Affairs

Academy caregiver recognized by Red Cross

Staff Reports, Aug. 13, 2019

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Last December, Diane Perez was settling into her morning routine at the Air Force Academy Child Development Center when her colleagues from a neighboring room began calling for help.

A toddler in their room was choking on a portion of bananas served during breakfast. The caregivers responsible for the child could not dislodge the food. Perez, a mother of two, instructed the front desk to call 911 and ran into the room, where she said the boy was already turning purple.

“It was scary,” she said. “I saw the child, and I just grabbed him to start the first round of CPR, and then tried to extract the food. I was nervous, but I did my job and [relied] on what I had learned during the training.”

After what Perez described as ‘long’ seconds, the boy began to breathe again.

“The parents came in, and they were really grateful for what I did,” she said. “We all cried together. I’m really glad to have had that training because [an incident like this] can happen to anyone.”

Jessica Parks, the CDC director and supervisor that day, credited Perez for the positive outcome.

“Ms. Perez is an exceptional employee, very dedicated,” Parks said.

Parks and others from the center nominated Perez for the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit, which is the highest award given by the Red Cross to an individual who saves or sustains a life; it’s signed by the President of the United States.

Perez was formally presented the award Aug. 13.

Col. Brian Hartless, 10th Air Base Wing commander, joined the award presentation where he thanked Perez for her extraordinary commitment.

“There are many folks who get this kind of training and could do it, but you did it, you absolutely did it. And that is special,” he said. “It’s a big deal, and I am so happy and proud to have you on our team.”

Perez has worked at the CDC for three years and is seeking educational opportunities as she sets her sights on one day becoming a director of a childcare facility.