I respectfully submit this true event that I feel is worthy of sharing with your readers. For the past 10 years, I have worked with Jeri Barnes, RDH. Jeri has a passion for her patients, the creatures of nature, and the outdoor. On May 2, a series of circumstances occurred that made an impact on her life, as well as her neighbor's life.
She arrived at her Central Pennsylvania mountain home earlier than usual after work on that day. Jeri decided to wind down on the back deck of her home rather than her favorite spot on the front deck. She noticed a puff of white smoke coming from the direction of her neighbor's house higher up the mountain and through the dense woods. She often walks her two dogs through the woods, stopping to chat with her 77-year-old neighbor, Robert Sponsler.
Suddenly, she heard popping sounds and noticed the color and density of the smoke was changing. Realizing that this was not an ordinary trash fire, she dashed through the woods where she found her neighbor's house and garage on fire. Seeing his one-month-old car in the garage, she ran to the front door of the burning house, broke the storm door window, but was unable to gain entry through the inner door. Then she heard Mr. Sponsler's cries for help at the back of the house. Recalling that she had seen a five-foot ladder hanging on a nearby shed, she grabbed it and ran to the back of the house, where she found Mr. Sponsler leaning out of the second-story bathroom window. She pleaded to him to crawl out, but recent knee surgery made that impossible. Propping the ladder against the house, she climbed to the top of it, grabbed Mr. Sponsler around the chest, and pulled him out of the smoky window. Unable to support his weight, they both fell to the ground (suffering minor scrapes and bruises) and quickly walked away from the inferno.
When my son was in elementary school, he was asked to write a paragraph describing his parents' jobs. He wrote, "My mother is a cleaning lady." I later asked him what prompted his answer, although both of us knew that being a cleaning lady is certainly an honorable vocation. His reply was, "Well, it's true, Mom, you clean people's teeth and our house. Besides, I couldn't spell hygienist."
Jeri Barnes is a heroic "cleaning lady," who firmly believes that the circumstances on May 2 were controlled by a higher power; she was merely an instrument used as needed. Mr. Sponsler, who lost everything he owned, feels otherwise. He says she is a hero. So do many other people who have nominated Jeri for the prestigious Carnegie Foundation Hero Award. Whether she receives the award or not, this dental hygienist is someone our profession can admire.
Joanne Stump, RDH
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