Kristen Iarrobino stepped out of her Glenburn home to bring her 16-year-old son Cyrus to school one day last December when she slipped on a patch of ice. The coffee mug in her hand shattered and she fell on the shards, slicing her wrist.
“I cut my wrist where all of your tendons and arteries are and everything connects. It’s like a bottleneck,” Kristen said. “We both realized instead of just having a bump on my head or the typical embarrassment of falling down, I was bleeding profusely.”
Cyrus said he “went into fight or flight mode,” calling 911 while searching for household items that could help stop the bleeding.
“I thought she had broken her arm because she was holding it, but there was blood everywhere,” Cyrus said. “I wasn’t in a state of panic, I was just thinking ‘go, go, go.’”
Meanwhile, Kristen laid outside, gripping her wrist, “trying to not lose consciousness,” she said.
In the next few minutes, Cyrus followed Dispatcher Dillon Coleman’s instructions and managed to fashion a tourniquet to slow his mother’s bleeding while she awaited an ambulance. His quick thinking on Dec. 7 will earn him an American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action. A Red Cross representative will present the award at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at John Bapst Memorial High School, where Cyrus is a student.
The morning of Kristen’s fall, when it became clear the bleeding wouldn’t stop with a bandage or pressure, Coleman told Cyrus to find materials to make a tourniquet, a medical device that controls blood loss following a traumatic injury. The device gets tied tightly around the injured limb to limit blood flow to the wound.
Cyrus’ first attempt — made with a string from the family’s junk drawer and a piece of wood from a nearby wood pile — snapped immediately. Instead of leaving his mother alone outside, Cyrus said he ripped the shoelace out of his shoe and tied it around his mother’s arm. He then twisted the piece of wood to tighten the tourniquet, following Coleman’s instructions.
“Cyrus had to keep turning it to the point where it wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was excruciating,” Kristen said. “It was so much more painful than I had ever thought.”
“I didn’t want to hurt her, but I knew I needed to keep doing it no matter what,” Cyrus said.
Christopher Lavoie, director of the Penobscot Regional Communications Center, where Coleman received Cyrus’ call, praised the 16-year-old for staying calm.
“Each and every day we get the opportunity to help someone, but sometimes it does not go as smoothly as it did that day,” Lavoie said. “The reason for that is Cyrus’ ability to remain calm and collected in such a stressful situation.”
It took about 15 to 20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, Kristen estimated. Glenburn does not have its own ambulance, so the town contracts with Northern Light Medical Transport to bring residents to the hospital in emergencies.
When she arrived at the emergency room, Kristen underwent two surgeries: one to stop the bleeding and one to repair the tendons and nerves in her wrist. Now she works on regular physical therapy to regain control of her fingers.
“On my right hand, I can’t feel the tips of my fingers on my thumb, pointer and middle fingers, so it makes things like pinching or grabbing things really hard,” she said.
Looking back on that morning, Kristen said she’s thankful her son was with her, though it was a frightening experience that lingers in their minds.
“As a mom, you expect to be the person helping the injury and tending the wound, so to be on the opposite side of that was hard,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair for your kids to be put in that position. I think it’s important for him to get recognized for what he did because what he did was extraordinary.”