Canadian Red Cross volunteer saves New Jersey man from choking
Canadian Red Cross disaster volunteer Susan MacKenzie of Calgary, AB, shares a laugh with Walter Hatch of New Jersey. (PHOTO: Alex Villa, American Red Cross)
Her focus changed in a heartbeat though on Saturday, November 17th. Shelter clients were gathered in a dining area, enjoying fried chicken and fresh vegetables. From across the room, MacKenzie spotted Walter Hatch, 79, coughing and struggling. By the time she reached his side, Hatch had stopped coughing and was clearly choking.
Following her first aid and CPR training, MacKenzie first asked if he was OK or needed help. Seeing his condition wasn’t getting any better, she helped Hatch raise his arms. She placed her hands around his body and got ready to perform abdominal thrusts, while at the same time shouting for help from a nurse from the shelter’s nearby health unit.
Just before thrusting upward, a nurse checked his breathing and confirmed Hatch’s airway was obstructed. With MacKenzie supporting him, Hatch was able to cough once more, this time forcefully enough that the food dislodged and he could breathe again.
The Canadian volunteer stayed with Hatch for several hours to make sure he was OK, and it wasn’t long before the Brick, New Jersey senior was back to telling jokes. For the couple of days that followed, he made a point of offering MacKenzie hugs and telling her repeatedly, "I owe you my life."
MacKenzie, who has deployed to other major disasters including the Slave Lake wildfire in northern Alberta in 2011, said it was a life-changing experience for her too. She says it provided a deeper appreciation for the disaster work the Red Cross and Red Crescent does around the world.
To know what to do in an emergency like this one, take a Red Cross First Aid course. You too can save a life.