Northern Illinois Woman Saves Life With CPR, Receives American Red Cross 2018 Good Samaritan Hero Award

Published on Make it Better, April 2018

By: Cat Rabenstine

Kate Dzierzanowski, a client retention specialist for Knox Insurance Agency in St. Charles, remembers looking at the clock on Nov. 6, 2017, at 4:45 p.m. while at work. She thought the day was winding down. Then, she heard a loud noise and looked out the window to see a car had run into the guardrail right outside her office. She immediately leapt into action.

She screamed “Call 911” to her colleague and ran outside to the car. She saw smoke in the vehicle and, having never experienced an accident like this before, wasn’t sure if the car was on fire and possibly about to explode. This fear didn’t deter her from intervening.

She went to the passenger side and yelled, “Turn off the car,” which was still running. When she got no response, she ran to the driver’s side, facing traffic, and tried to get the driver’s attention. She was determined to get him out of the car. He was still unresponsive so she tried to hail help from drivers passing by. She said she was almost in tears at this point, she was so scared. Two people pulled over and one of them checked the driver’s pulse. When they realized he had no pulse, they quickly lifted him out of the car. Someone yelled, “Who knows CPR?” Dzierzanowski responded, “I do.” She started compressions on the spot. She said, “I remember thinking to just keep going until something happens.”

Dzierzanowski knew exactly what to do because, in December 2015, the former owners of the insurance agency where she works closed the office for a day to have the entire staff certified in CPR. At the time, she thought, “I have so much to do, I will never use this.” Two years later, her CPR instructor called Dzierzanowski and told her how proud she was after reading the story of her life-saving actions in the news.

As Dzierzanowski looks back on that November day, she said she remembers flashing lights, her hands on the driver’s chest, and watching his mouth to see if it was moving. Help arrived in less than 15 minutes and the man was taken to the hospital. He survived the crash thanks to her bravery and quick thinking.

Dzierzanowski says that she and one of her coworkers often look out the window at the street where the accident happened and ask each other, “Did that really happen?” It seems surreal now. Dzierzanowski believes it’s what anyone would do. “I don’t feel like I’m a hero,” she says. “I feel like I did what was right at the moment and I think anyone would have done what I did if they had been in that situation.”

The Good Samaritan Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who courageously and selflessly responded to an unusual, significant, or unexpected crisis.