Unsung Hero: Scout calls 911 after grandfather has a stroke

Photo courtesy of Janet Montalvo

This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Read the latest story below, and find instructions for sharing your own Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.


Mark Despard was downstairs at his grandparents’ house getting ready for school when he heard a thud upstairs.

“I thought something bad might have happened,” says the 15-year-old First Class Scout from Troop 34 of Willimantic, Conn. “I heard my grandfather calling for help.”

He hurried upstairs, alerted his grandmother and they rushed to his grandfather’s side. His grandfather, Rene, had fallen and couldn’t feel the left half of his body. Rene had suffered a stroke.

In the Scouts BSA Handbook, a stroke is described as a “hurry case,” meaning quick action is needed to save the victim’s life, even if they’re conscious and talking. While Mark’s grandmother grabbed a pillow to comfort her husband, Mark called 911 on his cellphone.

“It was fight-or-flight,” Mark says. “I thought about what I needed to do.”

As he relayed what had happened to first responders, he helped keep his grandfather calm and monitored his vitals. First responders soon arrived, and Mark directed them to his grandfather. After Rene was rushed to the hospital, it was discovered there was a blood clot in his brain. An immediate surgery removed the clot, and by that night, Rene had regained much of his mobility. Today, he can walk with the assistance of a cane.

“I was lucky to be there,” Mark says.

Stroke signs

Your Scout can know the signs of a stroke by learning the acronym “FAST”:

F = Face. Ask the person to smile. Watch for weakness on one side of the face, which will look like a drooping mouth and cheek.

A = Arm. Ask the person to raise both arms. Watch for weakness or numbness in the limbs. Does one arm drift downward?

S = Speech. Ask the person to say a simple sentence such as, “May I have a cookie?” Listen for slurred speech.

T = Time. It is time to call 911 or your local emergency number right away if the person cannot perform any one of the simple tasks above or shows any other signals of stroke. Be sure to note the time the signals began.

Share your Unsung Heroes story

Stories like these brighten our day — especially because we know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.

Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop, ship, post or crew:

  1. Send an email with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
  2. Include a detailed summary of the heroic act.
  3. Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
  4. Include high-resolution photos of the Unsung Hero.

About Michael Freeman 443 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.