A mother returns home and finds her teenage daughter on the floor, a victim of an overdose.
An elderly woman wakes up and discovers her husband of 60 years, lying next to her, is dead.
Family members are distraught after the suicide of a loved one.
Police officers, fire and rescue personnel, doctors, and nurses are confronted with these scenarios as part of their daily duties. And their interactions with those impacted by sudden tragedy can lay the foundation for coping and healing.
Twenty of these compassionate first responders were celebrated at the 16th annual Heroes with Heart awards gala, held Nov. 1 at the Anaheim Hilton. The event is hosted by the Trauma Intervention Program of Orange County, commonly known as TIP.
TIP volunteers are available 24/7 and are called by first responders to scenes to provide comfort and assistance to family members and loved ones in the aftermath of a tragic and sudden loss.
“Our first responders encounter people who are in the most challenging moments of life, who have suffered trauma,” said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, co-chairperson of the gala. “I think it is important to note that with them being there for that moment, it helps them (through it) long term.”
The 20 honorees were nominated by TIP volunteers who were first-hand witnesses to their compassionate acts.
“I would say that the one thing in common beyond having a heart to help others…is they’re humble and they would probably tell you that is just what I do, and I don’t need to be recognized for that,” Hutchens said.
TIP was founded in San Diego in 1985, and chapters have formed around the country ever since. TIP of Orange County formed in 1995.
So far in 2017, TIP volunteers have helped 5,100 emergency responders in Orange County and more than 4,800 residents.
Here are the 2017 Heroes with Heart Honorees:
Kristin Thompson, EMS Division Chief, Newport Beach Fire Department
“In all jurisdictions where TIP operates, there is one person who worked tirelessly to bring TIP there. We give the Founder’s Award to those founding individuals. Chief Kristin Thompson was undoubtedly the TIP founder in Newport Beach. I am proud to present her with the 2017 TIP Founders Award.” — Wayne Fortin, TIP founder
Jennifer Robles, RN, Orange County Global Medical Center
“You have that long history with us, and you help us in many ways. Recently, a new TIP volunteer on a particularly difficult call (death of a 3-month old) reported after working with you: ‘Jen really supported me and made me feel like a part of the ED team.’ You have made TIP volunteers feel like a part of your team for years. I am pleased to present you with the 2017 Founders Award.” — Wayne Fortin
Jeffry Nahmias MD, UC Irvine Medical Center
“On Dec. 8, 2016, I was called to UCI to support the friends of a man who was being disconnected from life support. These two women appeared in shock and had many questions. Dr. Nahmias sat with them and explained what had been done and why. He told them what to expect. He stayed and answered all their questions and never seemed in a hurry to leave. I was very impressed with his compassion and with his kind and caring manner. You could tell that the women friends of the deceased felt well taken care of by Dr. Nahmias. He is certainly deserving of the Marianne Cinat MD Memorial Heroes with Heart Award.” — TIP volunteer Kathy Malone
Officer Philip Milam, Cypress Police Department
“On April 2, 2017, I was called to Cypress to support a large family after the death of a woman in a residence. Officer Milam politely introduced me to my clients and made me feel like part of the inner circle. Family members had many questions about the death and Officer Milam spent the time to thoroughly explain how the system works. When his job was finished he went around to all the family members who had gathered and genuinely told them how sorry he was for their loss. Officer Milam is a wonderful person and such a great example of outstanding law enforcement.” — TIP volunteer Mardi Frum
Deputy Stephan Harder, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
“On Aug. 26, 2016, I was called to support a family after the suicide of a loved one. This was undoubtedly one of the most difficult calls of my TIP volunteer service. The family was devastated. I was very fortunate, as was the family, to have Deputy Stephan Harder on the scene. He communicated very difficult information to the family honestly using just the right words. He was amazingly intuitive and compassionate. Deputy Harder is my Hero with Heart.” — TIP volunteer Kim Holt
Officer Jeffrey McGehee, Irvine Police Department
“On Dec. 24, 2016, I was called to a residence to support a family after a woman died. There, I encountered Officer McGehee. He could have been a TIP volunteer. He was so kind and compassionate. He got down on the floor and hugged the two children of the deceased and offered them water and tissues. He also told the children how great they were and that their mother’s death was not their fault. Officer McGehee made a huge connection with these children when they really needed it. I would describe him as ‘sensitivity plus.’ ” — TIP volunteer Manny Jurado
Officer Matthew Gregg, Laguna Beach Police Department
“On Jan 12, 2017, I was called to a residence in Laguna Beach to support the family and friends of a man who died. I was so impressed with how Officer Gregg dealt with a very close friend of the deceased. He was kind, patient, and compassionate. He spent time explaining the situation and reassured the friend that the death wasn’t her fault. A job very well done by Officer Gregg.” — TIP volunteer Mary Schreiber
Teressa Polinski, RN, UC Irvine Medical Center
“Teressa exemplifies a Hero with a Heart. Her strong clinical skills give the best care possible to the patient, and her never-ending caring and compassion helps loved ones and patients in the most critical times in their lives. Teressa is an asset to the Emergency Department team.” — Sherlene Stepp, RN
Kelli Browne, RN, Hoag Hospital Irvine
“On Oct. 29, 2016, I was called to Hoag Irvine to support the family of a woman who had been taken there in cardiac arrest. Kelli Browne was caring and respectful of the patient before and after death. She was so compassionate with the family, walking them through every step. Kelli could have been a TIP volunteer in the way she spoke to family members and friends and the way she encouraged them through words and touch. She is certainly deserving of a Heroes with Heart Award.” — TIP volunteer Kathy Malone
Lt. Fred Lopez, Orange Police Department
“On Nov. 8, 2 016, I was called to an accident scene to support a group of people who believed that the person in the accident was a family member. They spent seven hours in the cold waiting to find out if indeed the deceased was their loved one. However, this family’s burden was lightened by Lt. Fred Lopez who showed genuine concern and care for them throughout the horrible ordeal. Lt. Lopez was able to tentatively tell family members that the accident victim was most likely their loved one but the coroner would need to make the final determination. This information allowed family members to accept the situation and to leave the scene to go home. I felt that Lt. Lopez made a horrible situation bearable for this family.” — TIP volunteer Erin Lind
Deputy Coroner Paul Hoag, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
“On Sept. 2, 2016, I was called to Orange County Global Medical Center to support the family of a man who was killed in an accident in the workplace. Deputy Coroner Hoag displayed great sensitivity to the family, patiently explaining everything to them through a translator. He allowed them extra time to be with their loved one before he removed the deceased. When it was time to remove the deceased from the hospital, he communicated that the time had come very compassionately. I have been on other calls with Deputy Coroner Hoag and he is always patient, kind, and sensitive. He is truly a Hero with Heart.” — TIP volunteer Eileen Litchfield
Capt. Kent Hemseri, Anaheim Fire & Rescue
On Feb. 8, 2017, I was called to a residence to support the family member of a 37-year-old man with ALS who had died. First, I encountered Capt. Hemseri. He spent considerable time interacting with the family members reassuring them they were in very good hands. Capt. Hemseri’s eye contact, body language, and calm demeanor all communicated kindness and caring. I have worked with Capt. Hemseri before and he always treats Anaheim residents he encounters with compassion and caring. He is a real Hero with Heart.” — TIP volunteer Kim Holt
Carla Black, Unit Secretary Emergency Room, Placentia Linda Hospital
“I am nominating Carla Black for a Heroes with Heart Award for her care and compassion toward those who visit the emergency department. Carla is kind and caring. It is evident that she is passionate about her job, her patients and her co-workers. She frequently calls for TIP and she gives freely of her time with volunteers. She always answers questions to the best of her ability with a smile on her face. Carla lives being a Hero with Heart every day.” — TIP volunteer Sharon Richards
Jeffrey Riedel, RN, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center
“I was called on Feb. 17, 2017, to Saddleback Hospital to support the family of a woman who was dying. I was fortunate to work with Jeffrey Reidel, RN. He took the time to explain the patient’s condition to family members and friends. Mr. Reidel was patient, kind, compassionate, and very caring in his contact and communication. This was a very difficult situation for family members, but the way Jeff interacted with those at the bedside helped them better understand and accept their loved one’s pending death. I enthusiastically nominate him for a Heroes with Heart Award.” — TIP volunteer Marc Denton
Officer Dan Hurtado, Anaheim Police Department
“On Feb. 22, 2017, we were called to support the wife and daughter of a man who died at home. Officer Hurtado was the officer at the residence. He stepped into our role as TIP volunteers calling several mortuaries and taking the time to explain everything to the wife and daughter. Officer Hurtado stayed with us until the call was over and was a great comfort to the family. He went far beyond the call of duty.” — TIP volunteer Joseph Henkes
Officer Jerad Korte, Costa Mesa Police Department
“On March 5, 2017, I was called to a home of a man who died, to support to his wife and other family members. The man who died was a retired police officer, and there were many officers providing support and showing their respect. The officer who stood out to me was Officer Jerad Korte. He stayed with the family the entire time, never once sitting. Rather, he chose to stand and show his support from a distance. He did everything he could to arrange a respectful goodbye for the deceased. Such a great, outstanding police officer!” — TIP crisis team co-manager Mindy Daffron
Officer Kevin Monsoor, Newport Beach Police Department
“On Feb. 17, 2017, I was called to support the caregiver and grandson of a woman who had died. When Officer Monsoor was with the grandson, who was agitated, he acknowledged the grandson’s grief and empathized with him. Officer Monsoor’s compassion for him and the caregiver made a huge difference to both clients. He definitely went above and beyond for both the grandson and caregiver, and I believe he helped them in the first few hours of their grief.” — TIP volunteer Cathi Hartwell
Deputy Anthony Garza, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
“On Nov. 13, 2016, I was called to a residence to support the family of a 70-year-old male who had died. There I encountered Officer Garza. He made it perfectly clear to the family that he was there for them and said he was glad to see a family with so much love. Words do not do justice to how genuine his delivery of this message was. Neither can they describe the compassion he demonstrated.” — TIP volunteer Hawkins Sellier
Officer William Montalvo, Brea Police Department
“On March 20, 2017, I was called to a residence in Brea to support family members, friends, and co-workers of a man who died. I worked with Officer Montalvo. He was warm, understanding, polite, professional, and compassionate with the distraught survivors in their time of greatest need. His presence was welcomed by those present and his advice as both a professional and as a family man was touching. Officer Montalvo is a credit to first responders and to the Brea community.” — TIP volunteer Chris Merkle
Oncology Services, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center
“On Aug. 26,2017, TIP volunteers were called by Oncology Services to support a patient and family members of a patient who was dying. Over a 25-day period, 30 TIP volunteers worked side-by-side with the patient’s nurses in this very difficult situation. TIP volunteers were extremely impressed with the caring, compassion, and competence of the nurses as they cared for the patient and his family members.” — TIP founder Wayne Fortin