Eight-year-old Ryan Churchill didn’t hesitate when he saw that his younger brother, Nathan, was choking in the family’s Natick kitchen on July 17. He sprang into action and called 9-1-1.
Ryan was recognized Monday for his actions at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen, where he was was awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Fire Department. The certificate states that Ryan demonstrated “personal bravery, quick thinking, and decisive action” through which he helped to “avert tragedy.”
“It was probably the scariest day of my life,” said Ryan’s mother, Leah Churchill. “All of a sudden Ryan is speaking up and saying ‘Nathan’s choking on something, and it's an apple.’”
Leah said Nathan, who is 4, had turned “a couple of different colors” when she performed the Heimlich maneuver. “I was petrified, because he was so little,” Leah said. “I was afraid it was going to hurt him. … In the meantime, I saw Ryan was on the phone, and lo and behold, he handed me the phone and said ‘9-1-1.’ I was hysterical, and in the moment of my hysteria, my son had pulled through and called 9-1-1.”
“It’s huge – the fact that he knew what to do without being told,” said Acting Fire Chief Rick White. “His mother saved Nathan, and got the apple out. But the ambulance was already on its way because Ryan dialed 9-1-1.”
“It’s every parents nightmare,” White said, so it is important for parents to know how to perform CPR and other actions in an emergency, especially the Heimlich maneuver. “More parents save their own children because they know how to do it [the Heimlich]. … It’s just a very important skill that is very easily learned.”
Ryan said he knew to call 9-1-1 because that’s what his mother taught him.
“Our mom – she tells us over and over again, when there’s an accident, to call 9-1-1. So I knew what to do and did it,” Ryan said.