Second-grader honored for role in saving grandma’s life

It’s never too early to teach kids how to respond in case of emergency. That’s something an area family can attest to, after a 7-year-old girl helped save a life.

Thursday, the La Crosse Fire Department and Mayo Clinic Health System taught students at First Evangelical Lutheran School some lifesaving techniques, including CPR and AED training, and also rewarded second-grader Kenzie Smith for her role in saving her grandmother’s life.

Last month on Moore Street on the north side of La Crosse, when Donna Bryan pulled over short of breath and passed out, Kenzie knew to call 911.

“Hello. My grandma can’t breathe,” she told dispatch. “We’re on Moore Street.”

“Kenzie, they’re gonna help you. You did a really good job, OK?” an emergency responder told her on the phone call.

Now, about a month later, while students learn life-saving techniques, Kenzie is being honored for her life-saving 911 call.

“I’m gonna be on TV and that’s really amazing for me,” Kenzie said.

She also met Ms. Oktoberfest and got to wear her crown.

“That made me like, so excited,” she said.

It was a big day for any second-grader. But more important than anything was the woman sitting next to her.

“How important is it to know you can save a life?” her grandmother asked her.

“It’s really important to me,” Kenzie said.

“It’s just amazing I’m here,” Bryan said.

Bryan credits Kenzie’s mom, Rebecca Smith, for teaching her how to respond in emergencies beyond just calling 911, but also noticing street signs.

Even before Kenzie called 911 that day in January, she asked her grandmother about certain signs as they were driving.

“The first thing she said was, ‘Something’s wrong with grandma and I’m on M-O-O-R-E Street,'” Rebecca Smith said. “She was calm through the whole thing. It wasn’t until the next day, the reality that grandma almost died … I mean, I was a wreck.”

Kenzie’s emergency preparedness brought in the next life-saving pieces of the puzzle — first responders such as firefighters, but also 911 dispatchers.

“When a child calls, they might not be sure to what to say or do, they might be panicked, but the dispatcher’s ability to stay calm and ask the right questions will help the person on the other end,” La Crosse Fire Captain Tim Knudsen said.

That’s why Kenzie said she was just part of a joint effort that saved her grandma’s life.

“It’s true isn’t it? We always need one another. I needed you, and they needed them, and they all needed a hospital, so we all worked together,” Bryan said.

“Everybody did their part for the emergency,” Kenzie said.

Kenzie’s grandmother and mother want to stress the importance of having a safety plan for any circumstance, including how to call 911 on any phone, especially cell phones that lock, and how to get to a phone if need be.