Mary Oldford didn’t have much time when she realized her nine-year-old grandson was the only one who could save her life.
She was babysitting her two grandchildren, Simon and Levi, at their home in St. John’s last Monday when she took a bite of Simon’s grilled cheese sandwich. When she lowered her head and put her hands on his neck, the kids quickly realized something was wrong. A piece of crust was stuck in his throat.
“Nanny, how are you? Simon remembers asking her. She nodded at first, but couldn’t take the food off on her own. Oldford realized she was wasting precious time and reality was sinking in quickly.
A few seconds later, he asked her again and she motioned for him to come closer.
“I walked up to her and said, ‘What am I doing?’ Simon told CBC News on Saturday. “She put my hands, like, where you’re doing the Heimlich. “
Meanwhile, Oldford were beginning to worry about what would happen if he failed.
“In my head, I wonder what I’m going to do with these two little boys? she said with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t know if I could have convinced them to go get a neighbor, but I mean, it’s not easy either when you can’t talk. “
Despite being nine years old, Simon had some experience in the first aid service. Her mother, Amy, and her father, Jeremy, had shown her how to do the Heimlich maneuver two years earlier – just in case.
It started to come back to him when his grandmother held his hands and helped him squeeze his stomach. Her little brother watched and offered encouragement.
“I pumped it six times and it never came out, so I slapped her really hard on the back and then did it six more times,” he said. “And he finally broke away.”
He remembers his grandmother whispering thank you weakly and a feeling of relief coming over him.
“[It was] the scariest moment of my life, without a doubt,” he said.
Oldford is flooded with emotion as she recounts the story and exultant with thanks for the heroism of her grandchildren.
“You are a hero. You saved me,” Oldford told his grandson on Sunday. “You were so calm, Simon, so calm. I knew he wasn’t below, but he was calm. And that was the biggest surprise for me, is how someone could be so calm .”
Teach your kids basic first aid, family says
Oldford said one realization stuck with him in the days after the incident – children are stronger and smarter than people realize.
“In stressful situations, it’s amazing what happens. Amazing how anyone can cope,” she said. “You would think they might run away, or scream, or go crazy. But they didn’t. They held on.”
And the boys’ mother says an important lesson can be learned from their life-saving experience.
“It goes to show that it’s important for even young children to know a bit of basic first aid, because you never know when you’ll be in a situation,” Amy said. “Like we always worry about them choking on grapes, and that’s always our fear as parents, but in this case he had to help the carer.”
The incident also led Simon to set a new rule for visits from his grandmother.
“He said I wasn’t allowed to eat anymore unless someone was there,” Oldford said with a laugh.
Simon, meanwhile, takes a humble approach to being a hero. He told some of his friends about the experience and only shrugged when asked if they thought it was incredibly cool that he saved a life.
Despite his young age, he seems to understand what was at stake. His grandmother is one of the most important people in his life.
“How much do you love him?” it is asked.
“To the stars and the moon and back,” he replies without hesitation.
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