“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
That quote has been a favorite of the Carella family since they heard it in the 2011 movie “We Bought a Zoo.” Little did they know that those words from a movie would become a reality in 2012.
Arianna Carella may seem like an average girl who participates in Girl Scouts, plays soccer and sings in her church choir. But last April, this St. Thomas Aquinas Academy seventh-grader proved to be mature beyond her 12 years.
Arianna and her younger sister were visiting a relative near their south side Milwaukee home when she received a call from her grandmother, Rita Lehrer.
“She said she had fallen down,” explains Arianna, “but in her voice, I could hear something more serious was wrong. I just knew.”
Within 15 minutes, Arianna and her sister were back home and found Lehrer incapacitated. Fast-thinking Arianna took action. Lehrer tried to insist that she was fine and just needed to get into the shower. But Arianna wouldn’t have any of that.
Laughingly, Arianna recalls bluntly asking her grandma, “Do you want to stink or do you want to be alive?”
A force to be reckoned with, Arianna didn’t back down and called 911. When the paramedics arrived, Arianna kept her focus and was able to tell the EMTs about her grandmother’s overall health and what medications she took. Then she insisted on riding along in the ambulance.
“I prayed to God to keep my grandma safe, but I really wasn’t scared. I knew I could handle it,” relates the confident, straight-A student.
Out of town for business, Arianna’s mother, Helene, was helpless but hopeful.
“When Arianna first contacted me, she calmly described the situation, said she called 911 and told me not to worry, that she had everything under control. She was very matter of fact,” Helene said.
Explaining her faith in Arianna’s ability to manage the events at hand, Helene noted, “Our family philosophy is that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. If God didn’t think you were capable of dealing with a situation, he wouldn’t put you up to the challenge.”
Helene was so proud of her daughter’s heroics that she brought the events to the attention of the local Girl Scout council by nominating her for a Lifesaving Award. The national honor (given to scouts between the ages of 5 and 17 who save or attempt to save another’s life) has been awarded by the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) since 1912.
Christy L. Brown, chief executive officer at Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southwest, said, “The nomination requires multiple letters of support from non-family members. Arianna’s package included letters from the EMT and the emergency physician on call at the time her grandmother was admitted to the hospital. We approved the submission before sending it the GSUSA.”
After the all-school mass at St. Veronica Church on Nov. 21, Arianna received a standing ovation from her classmates, teachers, parish priest, family and neighbors as Brown presented her with the GSUSA National Lifesaving Medal of Honor.
“Arianna’s actions are a testament to the highest principles of the Girl Scout Promise and Law: to be resourceful, skilled and competent and to have the presence of mind to be of service to others,” said Brown.
“She inspires girls with the message that they can do anything they set their minds to.”
Arianna downplays her actions, even though she was only 1 of 23 girls nationwide to receive a Lifesaving Award in 2012.
“I was surprised because I just did what I had to do,” she said.
In addition to her strong faith, Arianna credits her ability to take charge with her involvement in the Girls Scouts Youth Leadership Council.
“By being an aide for younger scouts, I was taught skills that helped me stay calm and think clearly,”
Added Brown, “Arianna learned to use the resources around her and to think outside of the box. We are extremely proud of her.”
And, as the movie quote promised, something great did come from Arianna’s “insane courage” — her grandma is alive.
“When I needed Arianna to step up to the plate, she did all I hoped she could have done and more than I would have expected,” Helene said. “That day in April was a very proud mom moment.”