by Lois Szymanski, photography by Nikola Tzenov
Heart of Carroll Heroes
Heroes don’t necessarily seek out attention, yet they are here, quietly doing amazing things. They step up when they are needed, often when no one else can or will. They improve our lives in ways we can’t foresee. Carroll County has heroes too, and we’re proud to shine a light on some of them.
She Gave Part of Herself
Westminster resident Jessica Shockney learned early in her pregnancy with her fourth child that there was a problem. Tests showed he had a lower urinary tract obstruction. When son Hank was born on July 22, 2021, he had underdeveloped lungs and was in end-stage renal failure. He was placed on a ventilator. At three weeks, he began peritoneal dialysis. Soon after, an infection came. He was heavily sedated and medically paralyzed so he could receive hemodialysis for two months.
“After two months he was able to return to peritoneal dialysis, which was gentler on his body and could also be done at home,” Shockney said. “Hank came home for the first time in February of 2022 when he was seven months old.”
When he was a 2-year-old, Hank finally reached the weight necessary to receive a donor kidney. Shockney’s husband, Steven, did not qualify as a candidate, but she did. Becoming her son’s hero was a no-brainer, she said. She began a battery of medical testing, preparing to donate well before he was ready for a kidney.
“I had a whole separate team who looks after only the donor,” Shockney recalled. “So when he was ready, I [had already been approved]. And it is good that I was prepared in advance, because toward the end of July he got peritonitis — an infection of the peritoneal area. That’s the fluid inside your abdominal cavity. On July 28, during surgery to remove the peritoneal catheter and place a hemodialysis catheter, Hank suffered a cardiac arrest. It became necessary that he receive the new kidney as soon as he was able.”
The transplant surgery took place on Aug. 4, 2023.
“My husband Steven stayed with Hank in the hospital 24/7,” she said. “My hospitalization was two nights. Then I was able to recover at home. Hank came home on the 22nd of August.”
Since then, Jessica reports that Hank has recovered in great form and is now thriving.
“He is moving around, talking and is a happy toddler. He had never eaten food but now he has an interest in food,” Shockney said with joy. “He is still being [gastronomy-tube] fed. The g-tube helps him to stay well hydrated, which is necessary with a new kidney.”
While Hank has some developmental delays, he has no permanent damage to his brain and in time, he will likely have a normal and happy life. He is traveling back and forth to Johns Hopkins Hospital for testing. He will always be on medicine.
Shockney said the journey has been a hard one, but she does not think of herself as a hero, Instead, she is grateful to those she calls her heroes.
“We have been very lucky that, despite all this hardship, we have a very supportive family, community, church community and grandparents in Westminster, too, to help with the other kids,” she said, mentioning the busy lives of her other three children — 13-year-old Violet, 10-year-old Juliette and 6-year-old Zachary.
“Our faith in general has helped us keep Hank here. We have fought for his life for so long, through strength and prayer.”
Shockney said she thinks of the many folks awaiting organs.
“Organ donation saves lives,” she said. “I have seen the full circle of not only donating but — with my son — seeing how the recipient suffers and how we can change things by donating.
Adam Falzarano is the media relations and communications coordinator at Infinite Legacy, a nonprofit organ procurement organization that facilitates organ, eye and tissue donation and educates people about the critical importance of registering to be a donor. Infinite Legacy works with 68 hospitals and eight transplant centers to decrease the number of people waiting for a lifesaving transplant.
“Organ donor heroes like Jessica are needed every day to save the lives of more than 100,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the United States,” Falzarano said.
A Lifetime of Service
On Aug. 10, the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association honored 92-year-old Westminster resident Bill Fourhman for 72 years of service to Carroll County and to the Reese & Community Volunteer Fire Company. That’s a lot of years of doing good things for others.
Born on July 16, 1931, Fourhman became a member of the Reese and Community Fire Company at age 20, the same year he married his wife, Marian.
“I’ve spent much of my time there cleaning up equipment at the fire company,” Fourhman said. “But my main service was fundraising. We often served 1,400 or 1,500 people at our dinners, and I worked those and then also worked at our carnival. For the last 40 years I have been calling bingo at the firehouse.”
Reese fire company auxiliary member Linda Bowen, a life member of the company, is the one who nominated Fourhman for recognition.
“At age 92, he still calls bingo every Thursday at the fire company,” she said. “He is an active member, and it’s just amazing, all that he does for us.”
Fourhman said he is not one to ride the fire truck or go out on calls, but he actively works behind the scenes to raise money to make fire truck purchases possible, to help pay salaries, and to purchase life-saving equipment.
“I always say bingo and the carnival are our two big money-makers for the fire company,” he said. “The carnival is one week, but bingo is for 50 weeks. A fire truck now costs between $500,000 and $700,000 dollars, so that money is important to the company.”
There’s a smile in his voice when Fourhman talks about bingo. He’s there early in the day to set up and then back at night to call the numbers every Thursday.
“It is the people you meet that make you want to come back and the people at the firehall that I work with every week,” he said. “We get the same ones coming week after week and they become just like family. The fire company is like family, too.”
Besides working for the fire company, Fourhman is also active in his church, Grace Lutheran. He said he prepared Communion on Sundays for nearly 30 years. He sang in the Carroll County Chorus and the Barbershop Quartet and with the Senior Singers, as well. He also coached Little League softball for several years. He has given a lifetime of service to others.
“Once it gets in your blood, it doesn’t leave you,” he said. “You can’t beat it. It is a very rewarding situation.”
SYDNEY MCFADDEN & ROBERT MOSER
Storks In Disguise
Sykesville resident Jill Glemza says she will never forget the two heroes who came to her rescue over the summer when she was pregnant with her second child.
“On Aug. 11, my water broke just before 2 a.m.,” Glemza said. “My parents live in Falling Waters, West Virginia, and I called them right away to stay with my 2-year-old son. The contractions started quickly and by the time my parents got there, my stepmom — who is a critical care nurse — said we should call for an ambulance because the contractions were so close together.”
“At first, I said, ‘I can make it,’ but I was on an exercise ball, and when I had trouble standing up, I realized I might not be able to make it, so we called 911. The dispatcher was trying to get someone to my house, and I was trying to not wake up my 2-year-old son.”
Paramedic Sydney McFadden has been working Emergency Medical Services for 10 years, and has been at the Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department since June. She recalls that evening. She was working with paramedic Robert Moser.\
“We’d had a pretty busy shift at the Sykesville station,” she said. “It always seems to be busier on the night shift. We got the call a little after 4 a.m. The notes from dispatch said the contractions were a minute apart. We looked at each other and I said, ‘I think we will be delivering a baby.’”
Moser said as soon as they walked in, they knew they didn’t have long.
“Just from doing what we do for so long we knew,” he said. “It is almost an instinct. She was showing signs that birth was imminent. Sydney checked on her progress and confirmed that it would not be long.”
Glemza remembered McFadden asking how she was doing.
“I said, ‘I am never doing this again!’” she recalled. “Every time I tried to get up to walk to the gurney right outside the front door, another contraction would start. It was hard to move, but Sydney helped me up and held the towel that was around my waist. She was so good. They rolled me to the ambulance, and we decided we needed to go to Carroll Hospital. It was 15 minutes away. We were in the ambulance. Bob was driving and Sydney was in the back with my husband Justin and me. I said I needed to push, and Justin said he could see a head!”
McFadden realized her patient was about to deliver.
“I looked, and she was crowning,” she said, “so I told Bobby to pull over and he did. We like to have both of us in the back [to deliver a baby] just in case we are both needed. I got things ready.”
McFadden said she then asked Justin if he wanted to catch the baby.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know what that means.’” She laughed. “We told him to hold his hands out and then Bobby draped a sheet over his hands, and he caught the baby. We clamped the cord and then asked him if he wanted to cut the cord. After he cut the cord, he looked at us and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I am crying!’ I think it sort of surprised him.”
Moser said he knew the dad was nervous, but as a father himself, could relate to the importance of the moment.
“With everything going on — the panic and the excitement — the dad remained as calm as he could be. He was reassuring [his wife] the whole time. He did a great job!” Moser said.
Everyone in the back of the ambulance was focused on the patient.
“I just pushed five times and she was born in the ambulance,” Glemza said. “She is such a chill baby that she didn’t even cry. I had gone through two miscarriages, so I immediately asked if she was alive. Sydney and Justin both said, ‘Yes, she is alive and doing great!’”
Glemza said she will never forget what happened next.
“Bob got on the radio. He called the time, 4:31 in the morning and said, ‘It’s a girl,’ and he sounded excited. I will never forget that,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘I just did this completely natural!’”
Moser said his thoughts went to being with his own wife during the birth of their child.
“I have three kids myself,” he said. “That is one of the happiest moments of their lives. For us, it is all about the patient and her husband.”
With Glemza on her back and the baby on her chest covered in a foil blanket to hold in heat, they finished the drive to the hospital. The nurses met them outside. The baby was taken to a room to be checked out while Mom was moved to triage. The nurses kept asking Glemza her due date, because the baby was 7 lbs. 15 oz., and 20½ inches, even though she was four weeks early. But the date was correct.
Since then, baby Elizabeth has joined her brother Nathaniel at home, where she is thriving — all because of two heroes who made a big difference for this family of four.
Bob and Sydney deserve all the credit,” Glemza said. “I just want to say thank you to them. I am sure I was dramatic, but they were both very kind and helpful and reassured me that everything was going to be OK. I feel blessed and thankful that my daughter was born healthy and that it all worked out.”
McFadden said she will always remember the experience.
“I feel very blessed to have been a part of it,” she said. “I’ve always thought that I was put on this earth to be of service. Working EMS, we are usually there for the worst days of the people we serve, so to be a part of something so special was truly meaningful.”
Moser agreed. “Childbirth is one of the most amazing things we deal with. Seeing those special moments is few and far between.”
Turning Life’s Lemons Into Lemonade
Westminster resident Diana Flores is just 20 years old, but she has already founded a nonprofit called ConectandoUs, and impacted many lives. In September of 2023 the organization celebrated one year of service.
Flores was in her freshman year at McDaniel College in September of 2021. Just three weeks into the semester, her grandfather fell ill in Texas. Her family is a close-knit one, so she traveled with them across the country to Texas. At one point her grandfather rallied, and she returned to Maryland, but then he went into cardiac arrest. She headed back to Texas to help with funeral arrangements and to take care of her grandmother.
After having missed so much school, Flores was emotionally and physically spent, so she made the decision to take a break from college. As a result, she had to relinquish the prestigious Dorsey Scholarship she had been awarded. She said it was a hard time, and a time of self-reflection as she tried to decide what would come next in her life.
“I had done so many things throughout school to be academically successful,” she said.
“I had helped my peers. I had been on the Today show and local news and other places as president of my school’s chapter of Sources of Strength, an organization that works to reduce suicide attempts, bullying, drug abuse and other issues kids face,” Flores said. “Leaving college, I felt a sense of failure, even though I could do nothing about it. Life just happened all at once.”
For Flores, family support was huge during this time in her life. As May of 2022 arrived, her father sat her down for a talk.
“He told me, ‘You love doing this community work. Why don’t you find a way to create something that supports Hispanic students here to be able to get into college and to navigate college and to support themselves through that journey?’” Flores recalled.
Flores said she had worked with a couple of nonprofits and at the time, was working with Carroll County Kids for Equity as a peer mentor. “I felt like I owed it to myself to be able to give back to the community.”
Flores remembered her own journey growing up. She said her family had moved to Manchester when she was a 4-year-old. She didn’t know a word of English. She explained that at the time, Carroll County did not have an ESL (English as a Second Language) program. She said that while her parents could speak English, they were working multiple jobs and didn’t have a lot of time to spare.
“I had to learn the language mostly on my own,” she said. “That journey of isolation was a big deal in my life. Then, when I was in fourth grade, a student moved here from El Salvador and the school had me serve as an interpreter for her until the class actually set her up with the Rosetta Stone [language-learning] program.”
Her past played a big part in her decision to follow her father’s advice. She began researching how to start up a nonprofit in Carroll County.
“That summer, I drafted a business plan. I did a competitive analysis of what was already in place in the state of Maryland,” she said. “In July of 2022 we were able to get our office space.” Then a new challenge arrived in her life.
“In July, [doctors] detected a small issue with my heart pausing for two seconds at a time,” Flores said. “They were confused by this. I saw a cardiologist who basically chalked it up to anxiety, but I knew this was not normal for me.”
Flores said she was put on a heart monitor that showed her heart was actually pausing for four seconds at a time. While dealing with her heart issues, Flores opened ConectandoUs, on Sept. 19, 2022. In October the official letter arrived: ConectandoUs had received 501(c)(3) status, meaning it was granted status as a tax-exempt nonprofit.
Meanwhile, Flores was still going back and forth to doctors to diagnose her heart issue.
“Everything else seemed normal, so they didn’t know what to do,” she recalled. “My doctor thought I was too young for a pacemaker, but after all the tests, he realized that my longest pause was up to seven seconds. So on Nov. 15 of 2022, I [received] a pacemaker.”
Through it all, Flores kept her head up. She continued to plan programming for ConectandoUs. According to the organization’s website, the goal of ConectandoUs is “to support and unite our community. Hispanic individuals and families deserve connection to their community, opportunities to grow, and so much more. Here at ConectandoUs, we offer programs that support the success of all Hispanic individuals and families.”
Flores said they are currently working five different programs and hoping to expand to a sixth if funding comes in.
The Not Just Sueños program is designed to help Hispanic individuals take steps to make their dreams a reality, and to help youth with their homework, college applications, and job applications.
The Voces program helps individuals learn languages and connect with their communities. Spanish classes are offered to English-speaking individuals to help them further connect with their family and community. English classes are offered to Spanish-speaking individuals to help them to further connect with the community.
The Cafecito Con Pan program offers Hispanic youth a supportive, understanding, and safe space to discuss what is going on in their lives.
The My Familia program connects Hispanic families to local resources (by appointment). Resources include transportation services, food banks, clothing sources, affordable healthcare, housing assistance, and more.
The Our Talento program is designed for Hispanic individuals to help them learn and develop new skills. Classes teach basic trade skills, art and craft skills, financial skills, phone and computer skills, and more.
Flores said her six-month numbers show they have served 294 individuals, worked with 43 community agencies or organizations, hosted or attended 39 community events and they offered 180 hours of direct programming, not including their one-on-one supporting programs.
“I am not only doing this for those who are going through acclimation,” she said. “I am also healing a younger version of myself by keeping others from going through what I went through. Lived experience plays a big part in it, but it is not only integration of Spanish-speaking people in our community but also about opening the door to be inclusive to all. Families who need more support deserve that. You have to have that true empathetic understanding.”
And now Flores is back to school at Carroll Community College, on track to graduate in December 2024 with a degree in business management.
“This isn’t just a job for me. It is my life,” she said. “It is serving my community in a way that I never received. Individuals here and there helped, but there should have been more. I want to create what is more. I also want to empathize, ‘Nothing about us without us.’ We have to have representation and inclusion in all aspects of life.”
Flores encourages others who are contemplating getting involved.
“Taking that first step can be the scariest thing, but when you are able to take that first step and find a community of support with the same values and love for the community that you have, then you are really growing your own network of support,” she said. “In turn, you are able to support others. Humans are wired for connection.”
To The Rescue
At 8:30 a.m. on April 12, 2023, New Windsor resident Tim Crews said he was sitting in his truck in the parking lot of Carroll Indoor Sports Center. The owner of Tim Crews Plumbing was talking to his company business manager, preparing to do a job to fix a water heater. That’s when he said he saw smoke coming from a nearby home. He jumped out of the truck and ran across the road.
Crews ran into a man who was coming out of the driveway. He told Crews someone was in the house but wouldn’t open the door. Crews pounded on the door, then someone in the house said they were unable to get the door open. Crews didn’t hesitate — he kicked the door in.
After a brief exchange with the man inside the house, Crews learned there were two more people and a dog on the second floor.
“By then, the whole living room was banked with smoke, so I put my shirt over my face to get through it. I ended up in a galley kitchen,” Crews said. “The smoke was clearing up there.”
He yelled up the stairs and a lady came to the landing. When she saw the fire, she hurried down the steps. Another man followed, holding a dog.
“They headed for the front door,” Crews said. “I told them, ‘You can’t go that way. There’s fire in there.’ That’s when she told me the back door has never worked. I suggested we go to the basement and out that door.”
Crews said that as he ushered them down the steps, the lady was in a panic, crying that two more dogs were in the other room.
“I sent her out and ran back to get the dogs, but they would not come to me,” he said. “I thought, if I close this door, it will suppress the fire in time for the fire company to get it out.”
Crews, a former firefighter, had been inside a burning house in his past. He said he was running on instinct. Coughing up smoke as he exited the structure, he was relieved to see the Westminster Fire Company had arrived.
Crews was recently honored for his quick thinking and heroic actions at the Westminster Fire Company’s 200th anniversary banquet. Firefighter Rick Pratt and a lieutenant had sent a letter to Chief Jeff Leppert to nominate him.
The letter explained how Crews had intervened to save lives. In part, it said: “From a firefighter that arrived on the scene — ‘After seeing the well-advanced fire even just a few minutes after Tim’s time in the structure, he certainly saved the lives of those residents, especially those occupying the second floor. The residents didn’t have much time, if any, before their egress would have been cut off and smoke and heat would have overcome them. The dogs in the first-floor bedroom, who Tim isolated by closing the door, were also rescued later in the incident unharmed.’ Tim, without a doubt, saved many lives that day.”
“My adrenaline was through the roof,” he recalled. “I could not wait to call my wife and my business manager to tell them.” His advice to others in the same situation was simple.
“Go with your gut. You are helping save lives. What if it was your family? You are helping others, and that is always a good thing.” — Tim Crews