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Ann Garcia-Brinker Honored for Courageous Act

Ann Garcia-Brinker Honored for Courageous Act

For Ann Garcia-Brinker, Stormont Vail Health's Nurse Residency Program Manager, helping others comes as naturally as breathing. A nurse for almost 30 years, she has risen to the occasion countless times, both in and out of the Topeka Campus Hospital.

June 24, 2023, was no different. That night, around 11:30 p.m., Ann was driving home from a friend’s house when she noticed a bonfire in her neighbor’s yard.

“That particular night, I was out later than normal. I was passing my neighbor’s house and thought it was kind of late for a bonfire. Then I got concerned at how close the fire was to the house.”

She continued driving and realized it wasn’t a bonfire but a house fire. She parked, approached the home, and knocked on the door to see if the residents were awake. The owner answered, and Ann asked if any children were in the house.

“She had two small children, so I immediately ran upstairs to wake them up and get them out of the house. We got them into the car away from the house. Then I helped her kennel the dogs and get them out to the end of the driveway. We made sure that everyone was out of the house.”

While the homeowner called the fire department, Ann offered to help the homeowner’s husband as he attempted to extinguish the fire in the backyard. She stayed with the family until the fire department arrived to ensure they had everything they needed.

“If they [Garcia-Brinker] hadn’t done that, in another 10 to 15 minutes, it would have spread inside and been a whole different outcome,” Shawnee Heights Battalion Chief Ken Balsmeier said in an interview with KSNT. “Their smoke alarms weren’t going off because the fire was outside of the house. So, by the time they realized something was going on, they could have been in a lot of trouble. So, we’re really grateful that this good Samaritan did that.”

“It’s About Community.”

Ann and the homeowner have stayed in touch since that harrowing night, which has helped give her closure about the family’s wellbeing.

“I felt so relieved to learn how they were doing and that they had a plan, a place to go, and support,” Ann said. “So many people don’t have that support. Many times in nursing, you don’t get that follow-up. You don’t know what happens when a patient leaves the ICU, surgery, or your unit, so it was nice to have this connection.”

To honor Ann’s courageous actions, the Shawnee Heights Fire District will present an award on Thursday, July 27. She hopes this recognition will encourage others to rise to the occasion when others are in need.

“We’re all here to take care of each other. It’s about community. We tend to live our own lives and not realize how we affect each other until we’re needed,” Ann said.

The Fire District presenting a woman with an award

“It would be nice to connect in other ways when we’re not in trouble, to know that our neighbors do care and would be willing to stop and help whether or not we know them personally.”

Ann’s actions demonstrate that our team is always looking out for our neighbors, even off the clock, while her words exemplify Stormont Vail Health’s third tenant: “We provide safe, high-quality care with a kind and generous spirit.”

Ann, congratulations on your recognition from the Shawnee Heights Fire District! We sincerely appreciate your incredible efforts in and out of the workplace.

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