Kids to the Rescue

Speedy First Aid
Five-year-old Courtney Maxfield and her 2-year-old brother, Zackary, were enjoying their Blow Pops at home when the toddler suddenly began to choke. “I was on the phone, and I heard Courtney say, ‘Zack, you’ll be OK. Let’s go see Mommy,’” says their mom, Michelle. “I spun around and saw that Zack’s mouth was open, but no sound was coming out.”

Just as Michelle realized that her son was choking, Courtney, standing behind Zackary, wrapped her little arms around his tummy and gave it a firm squeeze. He coughed up a thick wad of gum and began to cry. In amazement, Courtney asked her mother, “Did I just save Zack?” “I said, ‘Yes Courtney, I think you did,’” Michelle recalls. “That’s when it dawned on me how truly serious the situation had been — everything happened so fast, before I even had a chance to react.”

How was this shy kindergartener able to think and act so quickly? Courtney had just learned about the Heimlich maneuver through her school’s Risk Watch program, conducted by the National Fire Protection Association. “Still, it wasn’t as if Courtney had full instruction,” says Michelle. “Her teacher had only demonstrated the technique on a classmate to show what a grown-up would do if someone were choking.”

The lesson? Kids can be information sponges, absorbing more than they get credit for. “I’ve taken a first-aid course, and I think I could have done the Heimlich maneuver to help Zack,” Michelle says. “But Courtney was faster than I was.”

“Hello, 911?”
One morning, Kelly Baker was hurrying to get her 4-year-old daughter, Eva, ready for the day. “I was in the kitchen running an iron over one of Eva’s dresses when I had a small seizure,” says Kelly, who suffers from epilepsy. She collapsed to the floor, knocking the ironing board on top of her. The hot iron slammed into her, searing the skin on her chest and rib cage.

Little Eva, who heard the crashing sound, ran in from another room, where she had been watching TV. She immediately grabbed the cordless phone and dialed 911. It was exactly what her mother had taught her to do just a few months before.

“I need help,” Eva declared in her tiny voice to the 911 dispatch operator. Then she calmly verified her telephone number and recited her address. Within minutes, paramedics arrived at the Bakers’ home and rushed Kelly to a local hospital, where she was stabilized and successfully treated for second- and third-degree burns.

“By showing Eva how to dial 911, I was trying to prepare her for anything,” says Kelly, who had been motivated by concerns about her epilepsy and her elderly mother’s health. “I thank God every day I took the time. If it weren’t for Eva’s quick actions, our situation could have been much worse.”

Lifeguard on Duty
While their mom, Brenda Parkman, ran errands one spring afternoon, Theresa, 10, and her brother, Michael, 18 months, were visiting their grandmother. The kids seemed content watching cartoons in the den, so their grandmother left the room for a few minutes to get an aspirin for her headache.

“When she came back, Grandma asked, ‘Where’s Michael?’” recalls Theresa, who noticed that a patio door in the next room was slightly open. Michael must have unlatched it and snuck out, she thought, as she tore through the back yard.

Outside, she spotted her little brother floating on his side in their grandmother’s pool, unconscious. “He’s out here!” Theresa screamed. She plunged into the chilly water and pulled Michael to the pool’s edge, where her grandmother grabbed him from her. Once out of the pool, Theresa began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which she had learned from a Red Cross-sponsored course at her school the previous year. “I was worried, but I just concentrated on what I had learned,” Theresa says. “I pushed on his chest five times and gave him a breath. Then Michael moaned, and water gushed out of him.” Meanwhile, Theresa’s grandmother called 911.

Brenda was stunned to learn of the near horror that her family had experienced. “The paramedics said that if Theresa hadn’t performed CPR, Michael could have had severe organ damage or even died,” she says. Today, Michael is a healthy 2-year-old. Says Brenda, “We’re truly blessed that Theresa was able to remember CPR and perform it like a professional.”

A Good Neighbor
Nine-year-old Matthew Mitchell suspected something was wrong when he noticed that Mrs. Strasberg, an elderly customer on his paper route, hadn’t picked up the newspapers from her back porch for two days. “I knocked on the door of one her next-door neighbors and asked if anyone had seen her,” he says. No one had.

Always outgoing, Matthew had spoken with Mrs. Strasberg on several occasions while delivering her daily newspaper — and the exchanges weren’t always pleasant. “Mrs. Strasberg was particular about where she wanted her paper placed,” says Matthew’s mother, Amy. But, Matthew says, “I was worried because I knew she lived alone and she wasn’t feeling well.” By Sunday morning, increasingly anxious, he told his mother, “Mrs. Strasberg has three papers outside.” Amy called the police.

The responding officers went to the back of Mrs. Strasberg’s house and spied her through a window, lying on her kitchen floor. “They knocked on the window, and she raised a hand,” Amy says, “so they knew she was alive.” Mrs. Strasberg was transported by ambulance to a local hospital, where she was treated for a broken hip and later released to a nursing home.

“The police said that Mrs. Strasberg had fallen two days earlier. Our neighbor could have died if she’d remained there much longer,” Amy says. For his valiant efforts, Matthew was honored with the National Medal of Merit by the Boy Scouts of America and with the hero-of-the-year award by a local veterans association.

Help on the Highway
One October day, Pamela Dehart was driving her two children, Tyrah Adams, 8, and Hubert (“Bubby”), 1, to the store. The car skidded on a rain-soaked highway and struck a tree. It then flipped upside down into an adjacent creek.

As muddy water filled the car, Tyrah yelled, “Mom! Mom!” but heard no answer. Pamela had lost consciousness upon impact. Unable to free her, Tyrah swam out and scrambled through waist-high murky water and up the embankment, screaming for help.

Fortunately, a nurse was driving by, and she stopped and called 911. Then she spotted Bubby floating down the creek in his car seat. She and a second motorist managed to grab and unbuckle him. Although the screaming tot had a cut on his head that required stitches, he was otherwise unharmed. Fire department volunteers arriving at the scene cut away the driver’s-side door and extracted Pamela from the watery wreck. She had been trapped in the car for nearly 30 minutes. “By the time the paramedics got to me, I wasn’t breathing,” Pamela says. It took several tries to resuscitate her.

Pamela had suffered a concussion and internal injuries but was released from the hospital after nine days. “Tyrah’s quick thinking saved my life and her little brother’s,” says Pamela, who suffers from memory loss and epilepsy as a result of the accident. For her heroism, Tyrah made local newspaper headlines and received an award from her Girl Scout troop.

What Your Child Should Know
As soon as your child is old enough to learn his numbers, you can prepare him to help during an emergency. Here, the lifesaving lessons to teach.

Dialing 911: “From age 4 and up, your child should be able to dial 911 in the event of an emergency,” says Julie Dutton, communications manager of the Garden Grove, Calif., police department. First, define what an emergency is for your child, so she doesn’t think it’s OK to call for help as a game, for example. “Tell her to use 911 only under one of the following circumstances: if Mommy, Daddy, a babysitter, or another adult passes out and you can’t wake him or her up; if there’s a fire and an adult isn’t present; or if you see an accident and it looks like people are hurt,” Dutton says. Rehearse mock-dialing 911 with your child, and teach her to answer the operator’s questions simply and not to hang up until the operator tells her to.

Aid for a chronic illness: If you or your spouse has a chronic illness, start mentioning it to your child at about age 5, and talk to him about what he can do in an emergency, suggests Charles F. Pattavina, M.D., a director of the American College of Emergency Room Physicians. “Simply calling 911 is key,” Pattavina says. “But in many cases, your child can do things to help while the rescue vehicle is on the way, such as getting juice or sugar for a diabetic parent who is having an insulin reaction.”

Basic water safety: School-age kids should learn basic water-safety skills (particularly important if you have a backyard pool). Teach your child how to assist someone who needs help in the water without putting himself in danger (reach out with a kickboard or a towel); how to open someone’s airway; and for older children, how to give resuscitating breaths.

The Heimlich maneuver: “Children as young as 5 can learn this important technique for saving someone from choking,” says Connie Harvey, a health and safety expert for the American Red Cross, in Falls Church, Va.

For information on lifesaving and water-safety classes for kids as young as 4, contact the American Red Cross. Check the white pages of your phone book, or log on to