There is no denying it. Getting trained in CPR and First Aid saves lives. Few people understand this better than American Red Cross Training Services Manager, Spencer Stelljes. Based in Atlanta, GA, he oversees a team that helps to ensure schools, businesses, first responders and more have access to Red Cross lifesaving courses. Last year alone, his team worked across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and the US Virgin Islands to help certify over 300,000 people in skills that save lives!
But, on November 21, 2018, Spencer used his own knowledge and lifesaving skills to help a stranger in need.
It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving; and at a popular restaurant in downtown Atlanta the holiday spirit was in full swing. That’s when a man, a few yards away from Spencer, began screaming for help—because his husband was choking.
“There was nearly 150 people in the restaurant,” said Spencer. “I was the only one able to respond in that moment.”
First, Spencer checked the scene, introduced himself and asked the choking victim if he needed help. The victim nodded and continued to try his best to cough up the object that had become lodged in his throat.
That’s when, according to Spencer, things got worse.
“He suddenly was unable to speak or cough.”
Spencer yelled out for someone to call 9-1-1 and proceeded to do five back blows, followed by five upper abdominal thrusts.
At this point, the victim was able to cough again, but within seconds started choking on the object for a second time. Spencer performed five more back blows, followed by five more abdominal thrusts; and just as EMT’s arrived, the object became dislodged from the victim’s throat.
“I absolutely felt confidant,” said Spencer. “Performing the back blows and abdominal thrusts was as second hand as breathing.”
Later that evening, the victim’s husband came over to Spencer and said, “Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to go home with my husband tonight.”
Because he had the skills and confidence needed to respond, last month, Spencer was honored with the Certificate of Merit – the highest award given by the American Red Cross.
“It’s a team effort,” said Spencer. “The lifesaving courses we offer matter and the skills we teach work. We are empowering people to be heroes on a daily basis.”
For more information on Red Cross lifesaving courses or to learn more about Red Cross Lifesaving Awards, visit RedCross.org.