Can you save a life?

Silence. Then panic comes like a hurricane consuming every nerve in your body. What can I do, you think. Can someone help? Please, someone help!

I can only imagine this was the reaction a mother experienced last week when her young and precious son began choking on a piece of candy at a local restaurant near Highland Park, Illinois. Thankfully Susan Sak was there to save the young child’s life. Susan is a hero. She is someone who, in a moment of truth, was fearless and I deeply applaud and respect her for that.

As I was interviewing Susan I pictured the chain of events unfolding. A mom overwhelmed with panic, shouting for help. The boy unmoving and unable to breath. The restaurant manager hastily reaching for the phone to call 911. People watch on. Nobody knows what to do. Susan is Red Cross certified in CPR and is trained on how to react in these types of life threatening situations. She gives a few blows to the boy’s back and the candy is out. First there is calm. Then gratitude. She has saved his life.

As Susan and I talked on she mentioned that restaurant personnel especially should be CPR certified. For example, the Illinois Restaurant Association states that every restaurant must have an Emergency Care for Choking poster, which “explains emergency care for conscious and unconscious choking victims. It has a place to list an emergency phone number. It must be posted in every foodservice facility.” But sometimes this is not enough. While some restaurants argue that they do not want their employees to be CPR certified because of liability, high turnover and cost to train employers I ask- can you put a price on saving someone’s life? Besides, the Red Cross has several low-cost alternatives.

For example the Chicago Red Cross website houses a free video and printable How To for CPR that could be found here. In response to the liability issue know that according to the Good Samaritan law anyone who gives cardiopulmonary resuscitation in “good faith” is “exempt from civil liability” (Illinois General Assembly).

When people are at their most vulnerable moments it is up to us to provide the help they deserve. Learning the basics of CPR can make all the difference in the world. How would you feel if you could save someone’s life?

If you think your child is choking, ask someone to call 911 immediately and take three simple steps to assist; check, call, care.

Check to see if there is an obstruction or loss of breathing, if either are present ask someone to Call 911 and administer Care. If you find something lodged in the victim’s throat, use the Five and Five Method. Lean the person forward and give FIVE sharp back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. If the obstruction isn’t dislodged, stand behind the person and give FIVE quick, upward thrusts into the abdomen. Repeat back blows and abdominal thrusts as necessary.

This is a general guidance and does not substitute for formal training. If you haven’t been trained please take a CPR-First Aid class so you can be prepared for these emergencies. Visit or call 312-729-6100 to register for a class.

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