(BPT) - Choking is the fifth leading cause of unintentional deaths in the Unites States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While choking is more likely to occur in children 3 years of age or younger, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, choking emergencies can happen to anyone, at anytime.
Choking is unpredictable, but preventable with the right tools. Heimlich Heroes, a Deaconess initiative based in Cincinnati, Ohio, trains young people ages 7-14 how to recognize, respond to and prevent a choking emergency.
"We have trained more than 40,000 kids to date since our inception in 2013," says Program Manager Terri Huntington. "Our specially-designed 42-inch training dolls give kids hands-on practice to help cement the steps when performing the Heimlich Maneuver."
Here are four simple steps to properly administer the maneuver from the experts at Heimlich Heroes:
1. Make a fist with one hand.
2. With the palm-side of your hand facing up, place your hand at the belly button, and then roll your fist up. This places your fist correctly at the diaphragm.
3. Place your free hand around your fisted hand.
4. Begin thrusting inward and upward, like a "J" stroke. Repeat thrusts until the blockage is removed.
Heimlich Heroes' mission is to equip young people with the skills and knowledge to reduce preventable choking deaths. And that's what they did when Taylors Creek Elementary in Hinesville, Georgia, used their training program.
Putting new skills to work
In August 2015, fourth graders Mariyah Carter and Ryan Lippy went through the training program alongside 250 classmates. Several months after the training, Mariyah put her new skills to work.
"Ryan was choking. He started gagging and his face was turning red," Mariyah said in a statement made to personnel at Taylors Creek Elementary.
When Ryan began choking on a piece of bread at lunch, Mariyah asked him if he was choking, walked around the table and performed the Heimlich Maneuver on him.
"Mariyah saved my life," Ryan says. "I think all kids and adults should know how to do the Heimlich."
School nurse Melissa Lanier ran the program with help from the school's PE Staff: Coach Brennan, Coach Polk, and Coach Flowers. When news spread about Taylors Creek very own Heimlich Hero, Lanier took pride in her student.
"Aside from just being super proud, I was humbled by her actions," Lanier says. "She just blew me away and showed me how young people can change the world in the blink of an eye with the right tools."
Heimlich Heroes is now used as part of the school’s ongoing curriculum to teach students preparedness for a choking emergency.
"We have had two teachers save someone using the Heimlich and one student save a friend," Lanier says. "Those three lives saved are why we will continue to train as long as we can. We all benefit."
The Heimlich Heroes program is accessible to anyone in the world through their training-in-a-box. It provides all the necessary materials, including a video lesson and training dolls for hands-on practice.
To expand the program’s reach, Heimlich Heroes also has released a Spanish program translation.
To learn more about Heimlich Heroes or how to register your group for training, visit www.heimlichheroes.com.