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Uniontown teen honored by Red Cross for heroism

| Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011

A Fayette County youth was recognized by the Red Cross for brave steps he took to save a friend's life on a golf course.

Ben Sampson, 18, of Uniontown said what was just a routine day on the greens a year ago, quickly took a turn for the worst when a good friend of the family, Gus Franzetta, 62, suffered a heart attack.

"It's stuck in my memory. It was Aug. 15 and my brother, my dad, Gus and I were playing at Duck Hollow Golf Club in an annual charity golf outing. We were on the last hole of the day. None of us were playing too well. We were just having a good time. My dad and brother putted out. I went next. I started to walk off when I heard a loud thud on the ground behind me."

Sampson, who was 17 at the time, was presented with this year's Youth Hero Award by the Red Cross because of what immediately followed.

"My dad said 'boys, he's in trouble.' We kneeled down to check his breathing and his pulse. Our first reaction was to see what was wrong with him. My brother immediately began CPR. A nurse playing in the golf outing came up to help us as well. My brother asked me to take over CPR. 911 was called, and we were all trying to cool Gus down and just help him as much as we could."

Sampson put the life-saving skills he learned as a volunteer firefighter with the Uniontown Fire Department to work. For 10 minutes, he and his older brother Eric took turns continuing CPR until the ambulance arrived. He said he learned that conducting resuscitation on a live person and a mannequin are two very different things.

"It was a scary moment, but you quickly react and deal with it as best you know. In a pressured situation like that, we are not doctors. I kept doing CPR and looking over my shoulder for the ambulance. I kept thinking 'where is someone who knows more than us• Where are they?' I was tired, but I wasn't going to stop CPR."

Thanks to Sampson and his brother's heroic actions, oxygenated blood kept flowing through their friend's body, even while his heart was not beating. Once on the scene, paramedics used an automated external defibrillator to electrically shock and restart Franzetta's heart. While the family feared the worst, Franzetta eventually made a full recovery.

"Two to three weeks after this happened, Gus was back to work. He's a sales representative and comes by our family restaurant every Wednesday to drop off supplies. He's been doing that for 16 years. It was real good to see him back to normal after going through the heart attack."

Brian Knavish, director of communications with the Red Cross, said Sampson was one of six everyday heroes honored in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region recently.

"Ben exemplifies so much. He demonstrated bravery, staying cool under pressure, compassion and dedication. The fact that he was so young at the time of the incident makes his actions all the more impressive. Ben really is a hero," said Knavish.

Knavish said heroes are nominated by community members and then go through a selection process by an independent panel. Criteria and categories can be found on the American Red Cross website.

"There are so many true heroes in our community; everyday people who do extraordinary things. All too often, these individuals do not get the recognition they deserve for their noble actions. That's why the Red Cross takes the time to give these folks the recognition of which they are so deserving."

Citing Sampson as a great example, the Red Cross encourages the public to get trained with lifesaving skills such as CPR and first aid, adding that it can make the difference of life or death during a medical emergency. Individuals can find upcoming classes by visiting here and searching their ZIP code.

For Sampson, a Penn State-Fayette student, he said the experience has reminded him of the importance of living every day to the fullest.

"In another hour, Gus would have been in a vehicle on his way back to his home in Pittsburgh. The heart attack could have happened anywhere. There really is no positive thing out of this happening, but I do think that it happened at the right place at the right time with the right people around."

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