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Menifee paramedic passionate about drowning prevention

By in Press Enterprise on October 12, 2017

By Melanie C. Johnson

The year that Lisa La Russo created a drowning-prevention program, 78 children had died or were injured in Riverside County tubs, pools and other waterways.

Since she started her nonprofit Splash Medics in 2014, 23 children have drowned and another 176 nearly drowned countywide, according to the Riverside University Health System, the county’s public health department.

  • Video: Water safety and tips to prevent drowning

The veteran paramedic wanted to find a way to prevent these tragedies, something she had seen too many times in her 28 years with American Medical Response.

“One of the toughest calls is pediatric drowning,” said the Menifee resident. “It is a difficult call to run. This was a way for us to be able to reduce something that is so catastrophic.”

Splash Medics is an educational program aimed at teaching children about the importance of water safety. Her efforts recently earned her recognition when the North Carolina-based Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma named her the recipient of a scholarship.

La Russo, 49, was in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma, two weeks after being in Texas during
Hurricane Harvey, when she heard about the honor.

“It was something that raised my spirits for sure,” she said. “It was something positive.”

Besides her work to educate youth about water safety, Childress Institute also recognized La Russo for her two-year push to make a technique called needle cricothyroidotomy as a necessary skill for paramedics countywide. The procedure — typically done on children and infants — involves using a needle to create an airway in a life-threatening situation.

La Russo fell in love with the dream of becoming a paramedic as a little girl.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was 5 years old,” she said. “I used to watch the show ‘Emergency’ and for some reason, I loved it.”

Her nonprofit is another way […]    

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