07/01/09 — Man saves choking woman's life

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Man saves choking woman's life

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on July 1, 2009 1:46 PM

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Jimmy Frederick stands with Gloria Bass, the woman he saved from choking with the Heimlich maneuver.

Jimmy Frederick looked out the window of his classroom at Vocation Rehabilitation and saw co-worker Gloria Bass frantically clutching her throat. She was gasping for air and pointing at her throat.

In an instant, Frederick knew what was wrong -- she was choking to death. He ran to her, performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life.

He said it all happened so fast that he really didn't have time to think, but credits a CPR class for giving him the knowledge of what to do.

Today, Gloria Bass calls Frederick her hero.

"I was walking down the hallway and had a piece of round cinnamon hard candy in my mouth," she said. "It just slipped down my throat."

Ms. Bass frantically tried to cough the candy up, but couldn't.

"I couldn't talk or scream for anyone," she said. And she saw no one down the hallway or in the first couple of classrooms she passed.

Then she found Frederick's classroom.

"I was teaching class when I heard a hacking cough kind of sound," Frederick said. "We got quiet and I heard it again."

That's when he looked out of the window and saw Ms. Bass and ran out to her.

"He asked me if I was OK," Ms. Bass said. "I shook my head no."

That was the only question Frederick asked. Immediately he did the Heimlich maneuver.

"I gave three firm thrusts," he said, "and on the third one, a piece of hard candy popped out. It hit the floor so hard that it broke into pieces."

Ms. Bass was glad to be alive and she couldn't talk for a few minutes; she just cried. She remembers the first thing Frederick said to her after he dislodged the candy: "God is not ready for you yet. There's more work for you to do."

"It happened so fast," she said. "When I thought about it, if no one had been in the hall, I probably wouldn't be alive. I would have choked to death."

Frederick agrees. "It (the candy) was pretty much cutting off her air," he said. "I think she would have died if I hadn't got that candy out of her."

But he doesn't see himself as a hero. "I just look at it as an opportunity to help somebody and being in the right place at the right time. I used the knowledge I had to make a difference. I was just doing what was right."

Ms. Bass doesn't see it that way.

"There are not even any words I could say that would be good enough. Thank you is just not good enough," she said.

The 29-year-old Frederick, a printing II instructor on the old community college campus, received CPR training through his work. When he took the class, he thought he might some day be in a position to help someone, but he was thinking more of his small children or maybe at a restaurant.

"I never thought I'd use it here at work," he said.

He said having the training, though, is like "going to the bank to withdraw money. If there's no money there, you can't withdraw anything. It's the same thing with CPR. It was put in during class for me to withdraw it when I needed it."

His CPR instructor was Michelle Harris, safety officer and administrative officer I with Eastern Region Vocational Rehabilitation Facility. She received her instructor certification through the Red Cross.

Although she's been teaching CPR for several years, she's never had one of her students save anyone's life.

"I am very proud of him and it made me feel good that we are passing on skills that people can use to help other people," Ms. Harris said. "People who take the class really worry that they are not going to remember how to do it. I tell them don't worry; your instincts will take over. And that's just what happened in Jimmy's case."

Ms. Harris sees Frederick as a hero, too. She will use the incident in future classes to make people realize how important the class is.

"Some people may think they'll never use it," she said. "But things can really happen. It's real life."

Tammy Forrester, health and safety director with the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross, stressed that choking is "the kind of emergency in which the chance of getting the victim to a doctor in time is nil. Without help, the person can die or suffer permanent brain damage within four minutes."

She said there is an average of 3,300 deaths each year in the United States due to choking and that it's the sixth-leading cause of accidental deaths, making those skills Frederick learned in his CPR class so important.

"We never know when we might have to save a life," she said.

As for Frederick, he said he'll never look at hard candy the same way again.

"I didn't know that little piece of candy could be so dangerous," he said.