Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sara Willinger
Sara Willinger

Last Wednesday afternoon, an 18-month-old infant choked on a snack at a community center in the town of Savion. Panicked people at the center started crying out for help.

Savyon, population 4,036, is ranked 10/10 on the Israeli socio-economic scale and is one of the wealthiest municipalities in Israel.


Sara Willinger, a childcare specialist from Givat Shmuel, was at the community center with her own baby and a friend and heard the desperate calls. She left her baby with her friend and ran over to the scene. The toddler was suffering from obstructed airways and was turning blue. A dozen of panicked parents surrounded the child, not knowing what to do, except for one man who was attempting to perform the Heimlich maneuver. The child’s babysitter explained that she had choked on a pretzel.

Using the techniques she had recently learned in a 4-hour family safety course taught by United Hatzalah, Sara helped the man position the baby properly and administered back blows to dislodge the piece of food that was stuck in the baby’s throat.

Holding up the baby’s head, she noticed that air was coming out of the child’s nose and instructed the man to continue with the back blows. “As he tapped, I could feel more air coming out,” Sara recounted after the incident. “The girl then started to gargle and suddenly a piece of snack was pushed out from her throat.”

The toddler’s color began to return to normal as she was once again able to breathe. Sara sat her up and spoke to her to make sure she was alert. She assured the frantic child in soothing tones that the danger had passed. The young woman then brought the youngster to the ambulance, which arrived a few minutes later and transported the child to the hospital for further treatment.

Sara reflected on the incident, saying, “I am grateful that the girl is okay. The fact that I was there at that moment and could help save her life was a stroke of luck. I took a family safety course a few months ago, to refresh my knowledge of life-saving techniques before the birth of my child, and yesterday I decided at the last minute to go to the community center. It seems like it was all meant to be. I recommend that everyone take a similar course, it literally saves lives, and it helped me save one today.”


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