Several years ago, I found myself having to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a man who’d choked on a tomato. As one minute rolled into the next and the man began to turn purple, I found myself frantically thinking, “I wished I’d had more training in this.”
Thankfully, the offending vegetable was ultimately dislodged despite my fumbling attempts. But a 9-year-old Massachusetts girl was entirely responsible for saving a friend in a similar situation.
According to the Washington Post, Shailyn Ryan learned to perform the Heimlich maneuver as part of a program put on by her local community. Northborough Recreation Center hosted the educational event as part of its “Home Alone” safety classes.
The classes teach all sorts of useful life skills to young learners. For example, they help them learn things like the safest way to open the door if they’re home alone and the niceties of basic first aid.
Little did Shailyn know that she’d soon put her newfound knowledge about the Heimlich maneuver into use. See, as she ate lunch with her 8-year-old friend Keira Silvia the very next day at Marguerite Peaslee Elementary School, something happened.
Kiera suddenly thrust a hand toward her throat and started to turn bright red. Then her hue began to shift to blue.
“A piece of hot dog was actually stuck in her throat, and she couldn’t breathe,” Allie Lane, director at Northborough Recreation Center, told Inside Edition.
But Shailyn didn’t panic. Instead, she rushed over to her friend and began performing the life-saving maneuver.
“I really didn’t think about it,” she said. “I just did it.
“I wasn’t scared, but I knew that I had to do something fast, so I did.” And she did so with picture-perfect technique.
The chunk of hot dog finally came out and Keira was fully recovered within a few minutes.
“After Shailyn helped me, I cried and I hugged her,” she said. “And yeah, I told her thank you.”
For her part, Shailyn hasn’t entirely reoriented herself from the barrage of attention she’s received. “She’s such a shy girl,” Lane explained.
“She’s so sweet. I think she’s a little overwhelmed. … “She’s 9 years old, and she saved her friend’s life. It was really incredible.”
Others think so, too. According to Inside Edition, her school and the American Heart Association have given her awards for her brave actions.
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