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Right Place, Right Time, Right Skills


The importance of being ready for a life-threatening emergency hit home recently for Kim Cottrell when her son began to choke and was helped by two American Red Cross volunteers. National CPR/AED Awareness Week, which starts today, can be a great time to sign up for training that could potentially save a life.

“I always thought I’d know what to do," said Cottrell as she watched her 5-year-old son Joshua run and jump around the playground.

A few days earlier, Cottrell had been helping a neighbor whose home was damaged by the floods that inundated much of Tennessee. They were sorting through soaked photos, pulling them apart and laying them out to dry with hopes of salvaging some of their family memories.

Suddenly, Cottrell heard Joshua coughing, and knew something wasn't right. He gagged, his eyes began to get glassy and his skin started to change colors. That's when Cottrell’s maternal instincts leapt into action. She grabbed Joshua and attempted to administer abdominal thrusts.

Meanwhile, Robert and Charles, two American Red Cross volunteers, were down the street working with a neighbor to determine what assistance they would need from the Red Cross. They heard a woman screaming, "A baby's choking—come quickly!"

Immediately, the two sprinted after the woman and found Joshua, still gagging. Cottrell remembers everything happening so fast that she was unsure exactly how the next moments played out.

Charles yelled for Robert to call 9-1-1 while he grabbed Joshua and started "doing what [his] training says to do," which was to administer back blows. A few seconds later, the piece of gum that Joshua had attempted to eat dislodged from his airway and he was able to breathe again.

The boy looked at Charles and said, "I ate too big of a piece of candy—I shoulda cut it in half." All his parents could do was nervously laugh with relief as their spunky child's charm didn't skip a beat, even though he knew how dangerous the situation he just survived was.

Charles gave Joshua some water and made sure he was going to be ok. Less than 20 minutes later, Joshua was playing as if nothing had happened. Cottrell had taken a CPR/first aid course many years ago for her job, but the skills were no longer fresh in her mind.

"Not only do you need to get trained, but you need to stay educated," she said. Cottrell's family is incredibly grateful that the Red Cross volunteers were at the right place at the right time, and believe that parents need to be more trained so that they will know exactly how to respond if anything happens to their child.

Get Trained Life-threatening emergencies such as choking are more common than you might think. According to a recent Red Cross survey, more than a quarter (28%) of people have witnessed someone choking. Family members are the most likely to help in these incidents.

In addition, one in four (27%) has been in a situation where someone may have needed CPR. Go to www.redcross.org to find your local chapter and get trained in CPR/AED and first aid.