It was our last day of Christmas vacation, and my children were so excited to take their Nana to the National Aviary. My mother was thrilled to see the Penguin Encounter. We laughed when we witnessed the penguins kissing each other, and we enjoyed how close we were with them. As we walked to the Tropical Rainforest exhibit, I heard a loud thump, turned around and saw my mother lying on the ground. I shouted her name over and over again. I screamed, “Call 911.”
I am forever grateful to the men and women who came to help my mother. A visitor asked if she could help, and introduced herself as a nurse. Someone took her pulse, but she did not have one. As my young children and I huddled ten feet away, we began to pray. I felt the arm of a National Aviary staff member, Greg M., who wrapped his arms around me and my children as we prayed. I glanced over and saw the staff performing CPR and Jamie T. using the AED. I heard staff members on their radios, communicating with medics and preventing visitors from walking through the chaotic but organized scene. I was warmly met by Jenny W. and Anna S. They reassured me that they could take the children to walk around the Aviary as I attended to the ambulance. I was indecisive. Allowing my children go with a stranger was not an easy thing for me to do. They were very kind and patient as I finally agreed that it would be helpful. And even as I stood on the side of the road, watching the medics work on my mother, I saw the familiar face of Greg M., to reassure me that he saw the kids and they were safe. When I went back to check on them, they expressed their level of comfort to walk around and attend the holiday free-flight bird show. My son was given the opportunity to be a part of the show. While I was at the hospital, my husband arrived to pick up the children from the Aviary. The staff asked to see his identification and gave us passes to bring the children back. A few days later, while sitting in the ICU, I received a phone call from Tracey Palmieri, the Director of Organizational Development and Human Resources, asking how my mother was progressing. Unfortunately, I did not have good news at that time. To my surprise, the staff went above and beyond by sending a delicious fruit basket to my home, which made the children smile ear to ear after appreciating their kindness and generosity.
There are so many individuals I came in contact with during this experience; all of whom I refer to as our Aviary Heroes. I would like to thank each and every one of them. Because they had a protocol in place and were well trained, my mother is alive today. My family and I are hopeful for my mother to be well enough for her to have open heart surgery. As we wait for her to become stronger, she is optimistic about attending the unveiling of the Penguin Plaques in the Penguin Point, as well as accepting an invitation from Cheryl Tracey, the executive director of the National Aviary, to revisit the Aviary, alongside her heroes.
As I personally told Cheryl, the staff members were absolutely wonderful in how they handled this emergency. They provided me a sense of peace and comfort. I am forever grateful to the National Aviary for being my family on that day, and I am truly looking forward to making a happy experience with my family during our next visit. I am certain after reading about how caring the staff members of the National Aviary truly are, you will appreciate making memories with your family at the National Aviary, too.
Loving their new city and kind denizens
My husband and I are new to the Pittsburgh area and my favorite thing to read every week is the Random Acts of Kindness column. It helps to make me feel connected to my new community. Little did I know that I'd already have a story of Pittsburgh kindness to share!
I was grocery shopping early in the morning and feeling a little under the weather. Apparently I left my card in the machine (not being in my right mind!) I didn't even realize I lost my card until many days later when the supermarket called wondering if I was going to come in and pick it up. Thank you to the very kind person who turned in my card and to the grocery store for researching the card's owner and making sure I got my card back. We are loving our new city and the kindness of all the people here!
Has someone done you right? Send your Random Act of Kindness to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 358 North Shore Drive, Suite 300, Pittsburgh PA 15212.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.