During a car ride in late summer, 9-year-old Camden Prater began choking on a waffle cone she was eating. As her mom, Kim, pulled the car over, her 12-year-old brother, Kyle, jumped into action.
“I’ve got this,” Kyle said as he unfastened Camden’s seat belt and began performing the Heimlich Maneuver, dislodging the cone almost instantly.
“I am so proud of Kyle. It literally took about five seconds to free her airway, the longest five seconds of my life. She started crying and squeezing him. I went from so scared to proud and relieved in a matter of 10 seconds,” gushed Kim.
It was a free training session offered at a local library by the St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] in June that taught Kyle the basics of CPR, including how to perform the Heimlich Manuever. In the last five years, nearly 5,000 people have taken these sessions, which are free and open to the public. Held in an open format, the sessions allow interested citizens to pop in whenever it is convenient during the four-hour event.
“It is not offered as a certification class, but is a general lay session to give a base knowledge to empower someone if a need arises,” explained Kyle Gaines, SCCAD director of community relations.
Paramedics hold these workshops on their own time and work one-on-one or in groups during the sessions. Typically, Gaines said, it takes about 20 minutes to learn hands-only CPR and chest compressions. SCCAD also offers assembly-style training classes with juniors and seniors in the city of St. Charles and Fort Zumwalt school districts. But Gaines said it is a skill that even young children should learn, as evident by the recent middle-schoolers’ heroic actions.
Kyle admits that he was a reluctant participant, but is grateful that his mom made him attend the SCCAD session.
“Saving my sister’s life makes me feel like I can do almost anything. I feel great because I actually saved someone’s life that I care about,” explained Kyle. “When I saw my sister choking, it immediately put me into an eye-opening mode. I didn’t have time to think, I just knew what I had to do.”
Kyle’s dad, Eric, is amazed at his son’s calmness through it all.
“There’s no way I would be able to keep myself calm enough in that moment. He saved my baby girl’s life and I can’t even think about what could’ve happened had he not gotten this training,” Eric said.
“This made me realize that I missed the most important thing, which is to take a 30-minute class that could literally save my child’s life while in my care. Never again will I make that mistake. I am truly amazed by [Kyle] and can never thank him enough,” Kim said.