9-year-old heralded as a hero after saving grandmother from choking

·3 min read
Simon Hart, left, with his grandmother, Mary Oldford, and his brother, Levi. The two boys were the only ones around on July 18 when Oldford began choking. She credits them with saving her life. (Submitted by Amy Oldford - image credit)
Simon Hart, left, with his grandmother, Mary Oldford, and his brother, Levi. The two boys were the only ones around on July 18 when Oldford began choking. She credits them with saving her life. (Submitted by Amy Oldford - image credit)
Submitted by Amy Oldford
Submitted by Amy Oldford

Mary Oldford didn't have much time left 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 put her head down and her hands to her neck, the kids quickly realized something was wrong. A piece of the crust was stuck in her throat.

"Nanny, are you OK?" Simon remembers asking her. She nodded at first, but couldn't get the food unstuck on her own. Oldford realized she was wasting precious time, and reality was sinking in fast.

A few seconds later, he asked her again and she motioned for him to come closer.

"I walked over to her and I said 'What do I do?'" Simon told CBC News on Saturday. "She put my hands, like, where you do the Heimlich."

Meanwhile, Oldford was beginning to worry what would happen if he wasn't successful.

"In my head, I'm thinking what am I 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 got them to go get a neighbour, but I mean, that's not easy either when you can't talk."

Dan Arsenault/CBC
Dan Arsenault/CBC

Despite being nine years old, Simon had some experience in the first aid department. His mother, Amy, and father, Jeremy, had showed him how to do the Heimlich manoeuvre two years earlier — just in case.

It started coming back to him as his grandmother held his hands and helped him squeeze her stomach. His little brother watched and offered encouragement.

"I pumped it six times and it never came out, so then I slapped her on the back really hard, and then I did it another six times," he said. "And it finally came loose."

He remembers his grandmother faintly whispering thank you, and a feeling of relief washing over him.

"[It was] the scariest moment of my life, definitely," he said.

Oldford is awash with emotion when telling the story, and effusive with thanks for the heroics of her grandkids.

"You're a hero. You saved me," Oldford said to her grandson on Sunday. "You were so calm, Simon, so calm. I knew he wasn't underneath, but he was calm. And that was the biggest surprise to me, was how anybody could be so calm."

Teach your kids basic first aid, family says

Oldford said a realization has stuck with her in the days since the incident — kids are stronger and smarter than they get credit for.

"Under stressful situations, it's amazing what happens. Amazing how anybody can come to the plate," she said. "You'd think that they might run away, or scream, or go berserk. But they didn't. They held it together."

And the boys' mother says an important lesson can be taken away from their life-saving experience.

"It shows that it's important for even young kids 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 caregiver."

Ryan Cooke/CBC
Ryan Cooke/CBC

The incident has also resulted in Simon setting a new rule for his grandmother's visits.

"He said I'm not allowed to eat anymore, unless somebody is there," Oldford laughed.

Simon, meanwhile, is taking a humble approach to being a hero. He told some of his friends about the experience, and only shrugs when asked if they thought it was incredibly cool that he'd saved a life.

Despite being young, 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 her?" he's asked.

"To the stars and moon and back," he answers without hesitation.

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