When was the last time you practiced any First Aid skills? About ten days ago I got a surprise practice when I had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on my nephew at a family reunion. We were attending a small-town parade—so small that the parade goes down main street one direction, turns around, and goes past again. It’s a great time, and the kids love it. (I'm not gonna lie--even though I'm an Urban Girl at heart, I love small towns. They're so charming and the people are almost always really friendly.) Out of nowhere my nephew made a couple of quick gagging/coughing sounds and spun around with wide eyes. Poor kid had a half-chewed salt-water taffy stuck in his throat. He managed to get out enough sound that his “I’m choking” could be understood, but sounded more like “Mchucke.” I didn’t react at first—I just stood there for a second. Then my dad said, “Do the Heimlich maneuver!” I still wasn't processing things completely, so I asked my nephew if he was okay—maybe he had coughed it out on his own? He shook his head. Nope, he wasn't okay. So I spun him around, did my best at placing my hands below his sternum, and gave it a go. He made a little gagging noise, coughed up the candy, and was completely fine. He went back to chasing down the candy projectiles that were coming from the floats and giving high fives to people in the parade.

Portrait of a boy with red hair

The whole thing was far less dramatic than you might expect. As I was getting ready to do the Heimlich maneuver, his mom commented from a few feet away, “You can probably just hit him on the back.” And that probably would have worked fine in this situation as a first attempt—I probably could have saved the Heimlich for a second or third attempt if a hefty swat or two between the shoulder blades didn't work. (In fact, that’s what you’re supposed to do first. More on that in an upcoming post.) That being said, maybe the reason it wasn't dramatic is because it worked—what if my family and I hadn't known what to do? What if no one around us at the parade knew what to do, either? That’s the idea behind this Public Service Announcement from an Ambulance corps in the UK. The statistics might be specific to the UK or a certain region (and the storyline is slightly depressing), but the message is applicable no matter where you live: just a small amount of First Aid knowledge and preparation can help save a life.

How much First Aid do you know? Are you First Aid or CPR Certified? Have you had to put your knowledge to use? --Urban Girl (Sarah) This post is Part One in a series related to First Aid knowledge and skills. Join us in learning about First Aid—and lend your experiences and knowledge to the discussion!
Emergency preparednessFirst aidSkills

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