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Life-saving effort of '10 earns award

This Christmas, Kelsey Johnson, a Bemidji State University alumna, said being together with her family will be the best gift of all.

Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the day Johnson helped save her stepfather's life.

Because of her efforts, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Bemidji Mayor David Larson will join the North Star Chapter of the American Red Cross to present her with a Red Cross "Lifesaving Award of Merit," signed by President Barack Obama.

She will receive her award at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 5 in Bemidji City Hall. The public is invited to attend.

One year ago, Johnson, then 22, drove to Rochester, Minn., to visit her mother and stepfather, Chris Schomenta, for Christmas.

Schomenta was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer and had received his second dose of chemotherapy treatment two days prior to Christmas.

The morning after Christmas, the family found Schomenta on the couch suffering from a seizure.

Johnson quickly assessed her stepfather's condition, moved him to the floor and began CPR to keep blood circulating in his body. Paramedics arrived 10 minutes later and administered an Automated External Defibrillator to shock his heart back into rhythm.

Today, Schomenta has fully recovered from his attack and is cancer free.

He said he has been feeling better and is looking forward to having a quiet Christmas this year. He also is excited to create new memories, since he does not have any memory of last year's incident.

"I'm really looking forward to a family-filled, relaxing Christmas," he said.

Schomenta said over the years he has learned Christmas is about enjoying the holiday with family and friends.

"It's about what you give and who you're with," he added. "That's always been the fun part of Christmas."

Johnson, who graduated from BSU last spring, now works as a nurse at Mayo Clinic in Rochester in a trauma unit. She said there will be a lot to celebrate this Christmas.

She is proud of how far her stepfather has come and how well his health has improved.

"It is really surreal," she said. "It's hard to believe he's standing right in our basement trying to fix the cable right now."

When asked about her new fulltime job, Johnson said she enjoys it.

"It's busy, but I love it," she said. "I like the trauma part. You really need to think on feet when stuff goes wrong."