Girl receives Scout Medal of Honor for saving mother’s life

SUMMERVILLE — Ashley Hogan pays attention to what is going on around her, and that ability paid off with a reward greater than she could have imagined. Thanks to her powers of observation and her quick thinking, the 11-year-old Girl Scout saved her mother’s life. Her deed also earned one of Scouting’s highest honors.

Ashley’s mother, Johnnie Pirkel, has rheumatoid arthritis and severe asthma. Because of the debilitating pain and fatigue she has, Pirkel often takes naps during the day. She almost didn’t wake up from the one she took on Sept. 5.

Ashley, who is home-schooled, was studying in her mother’s room when she noticed that the sleeping Pirkel’s breathing was labored. Pirkel told The Miscellany in an interview that she normally wakes up during an asthma attack, but this time she had received medication for her arthritis that made her sleepier than usual. Ashley knew something was wrong. She shook her mother’s arm, and when she received no response she acted quickly.

Ashley found Pirkel’s nebulizer, a compressed-air apparatus that delivers asthma medication as a mist. Though she had watched her parents set up the nebulizer in the past, she had never done so herself. She began to put the parts together and told her sister, Sarah Pirkel, also 11, to call their father at work.

“I was scared because I heard her wheezing,” Ashley said. “Then I thought, ‘I don’t know how to set the nebulizer up,’ but I just copied the way my parents did it. I was just thinking I had to get Mom up.”

By the time her sister reported the situation to their father, Ashley had put the nebulizer together, plugged it in, mixed the medications, helped her mother sit up, and held the mouthpiece to her face. After a few minutes, Pirkel was breathing normally and able to tell her husband, Mark, that everything was all right.

Pirkel said that she doesn’t remember what happened. She explained that the children called their father before calling emergency medical services because she is sick so often that they wanted to be sure it was a real emergency.

A friend of Pirkel’s suggested the proud mother nominate her daughter for the Girl Scout Medal of Honor, one of Scouting’s highest honors. The award recognizes Scouts who have saved a life or attempted to save one. The awards are rare, and are given to girls who show remarkable maturity in difficult situations.

“I showed the papers to Ashley and asked her if she wanted me to fill [them] out, but she said she was just glad her Mom was OK,” Pirkel said. But Pirkel felt that Ashley deserved the award and filled out the paperwork anyway.

Ashley, who is a member of Troop 652 at St. Theresa the Little Flower Church, received the Girl Scout Medal of Honor on Dec. 5 at the church. Melissa Cox, chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of Carolina Low Country, presented the award.

“To my knowledge this is only the second Medal of Honor we have given out in this state,” Cox said.