HomeCherry Hill NewsWinkler lauded by American Red Cross as lifesaver

Winkler lauded by American Red Cross as lifesaver

Longtime staff member at Katz JCC honored for quick thinking last year.

Kyle Winkler (center) was honored by the Katz JCC on April 29 for saving the life of a staff member the previous May. At left is Kyle’s mother, Rita Spaulding, and to his right is Madhuri Rodriguez, executive director American Red Cross of southwestern New Jersey.

For many Americans, the idea of saving a life is the stuff that dreams are made of. But in the moment, it is a situation fraught with a whirlwind of emotion, where the slightest hesitation or incorrect decision can have dire consequences. 

For Kyle Winkler – Rutgers University Camden nursing student, long-time employee of the Katz JCC aquatics program and aquatics supervisor at JCC Camps at Medford – it’s just how he’s been trained and how he goes about training the younger generation.  

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“Since I’ve been a Red Cross instructor for about three or four years now, I definitely have more of an appreciation when teaching 15-year-olds that are getting their first jobs, telling them, ‘Hey, 99 percent of the time as a lifeguard for those three months in the summer, you’re getting tan and that’s great, but that 1 percent where you are needed, I would expect you, with my name as your instructor, to know what you’re doing,’” Winkler said. 

“You need to have the know-how. You don’t necessarily think about it, but when it does happen, your attitude is, ‘OK, let’s do it.’” 

On April 29, Katz held a ceremony honoring Winkler’s efforts last May to help prolong the life of someone who suffered sudden cardiac arrest. The American Red Cross, in the person of local chapter president Madhuri Rodriguez, presented Kyle with the Lifesaving Award for his heroic efforts after he successfully performed CPR and helped save the unidentified man’s life. 

Winkler is an Atco native, who also spent time living in Berlin before returning to his hometown. He has spent a decade working in various positions within the Katz JCC system, rising from a lifeguard to certified American Red Cross instructor. The 2010 graduate of Eastern Regional High School is only weeks away from graduating Rutgers, and is looking to gain more experience in the working world before considering another stretch in academia. 

On that day a little less than one year ago, a staff member complained of chest pains, and almost immediately, collapsed on the pool deck. Winkler was on duty, and not only was able to quickly render first aid, but also guided others to assist his lifesaving efforts before assisting first responders upon their arrival to Katz. 

“In nursing, we always talk about assessment as a big thing. When I teach kids I say, ‘What’s our priority assessment?’ Meaning ‘life threatening,’ and I’ve reiterated this to dozens of classes over the last couple years. When you approach a scene like that, you’re thinking worst-case scenario of cardiac arrest – which is what that situation was. You have five to 10 seconds to make a determination,” Winkler explained. 

Winkler said he felt calm and focused but at the same time, admitted that seven- to eight-minute stretch when he was administering CPR comes with an adrenaline rush, where he needed to block out a lot of peripheral events to successfully accomplish what he was trained to do. 

“In cardiac-arrest situations you have minutes. We say ‘time is muscle’ in nursing school. So each minute you delay, there’s like a 10 percent less chance of survival. It’s pedal to the metal, you’ve got to give it your all,” he stated.   

Winkler, who appeared happy to be honored and yet uncomfortable with the attention, revealed he has only had one brief encounter with the man whose life he saved. 

“I saw him about two months after the incident. It was a little awkward, because when I saw him, he was clinically dead and non-responsive, so to see the life kind of come back into somebody is pretty amazing. It was a brief conversation but I shook his hand, asked him how he was feeling and I said, ‘I’m glad you’re OK,’ and that was pretty much it. Life is 99 percent how you respond to things.”

Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.

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