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Inga’s heroes: Red Cross trainer saved by her students

For Red Cross First Aid instructor and firefighter Inga Tonopa, Sunday 25th February seemed like a normal day.
Inga arrived at the fire hall at Canadian Forces Base Borden near Barrie, Ontario, where she works, to complete a Canadian Red Cross CPR/AED Health Care Professional qualification with her co-workers. In her training classroom, Inga set out the equipment she would need for the session, including trauma bags, oxygen therapy devices such as oxygen masks, airway management tools, oxygen cylinders, and the training AED itself.
She then welcomed the Department of National Defence firefighter crew into the classroom and began the training, working through the Canadian Red Cross program as per usual.
Inga had just started discussing the topic of consent and implied consent when she suddenly collapsed. With no signs, symptoms, or warning, Inga dropped to the floor and went into full cardiac arrest. She was showing no signs of life.
Her trainees were quick to react. They immediately started CPR, ran to fetch the live AED from the firetruck parked outside, and began working through the correct life-saving procedures as taught by Inga and the Red Cross. The training crew applied two AED shocks and administered CPR until local paramedics arrived with an ambulance to transport her to local hospital.
They had saved Inga’s life.
“I will never be able to truly thank the crew - or ‘Inga’s heroes’ as I like to call them! - for what they have done,” said Inga. “Because of them, I am alive today and able to celebrate my 40th birthday with my family, friends – and the crew, who were all invited!”

Instructor Inga with the people who saved her life
Inga Tonopa (centre) pictured with C Crew, CFB Borden Fire Dept., who saved her life. The crew were awarded a Red Cross Rescue Award by Shannon Scully-Pratt (left) and Janine Bain (far right), Canadian Red Cross first aid representatives.

For their heroic actions, Inga nominated the group for a Rescuer Award, which was presented to them by the Red Cross at her birthday celebration.

Rescuer Awards are a way for the Canadian Red Cross to recognize non-professional rescuers and off-duty first responders who go out of their way to save a life, prevent further injury and provide comfort to the injured. It only takes four hours to learn how to save a life with Red Cross First Aid or CPR training, available in communities all across Canada.
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