Last Thursday just before 8 PM, a 12-year-old girl was playing with her year and a half-old brother when he swallowed a large piece of candy. The candy became logged in the infant’s throat causing him to stop breathing. When she saw her brother’s face turning blue, the girl alerted her mother who called United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center.
The incident took place on Yehuda HaNasi street in Ashdod, and United Hatzalah’s dispatchers alerted the medical personnel nearest the emergency. Volunteer EMT Shalom Oberlander was just one block away when he was alerted to the choking incident. He ran to his car and drove the block over to the address and raced up the stairs into the apartment. He arrived in just under a minute from receiving the alert.
Shalom began examining the blue-faced toddler’s throat in search of the object that was blocking his airways. Discovering the candy deep in the throat, Shalom first tried scooping out the candy with his pinky. Failing to reach the candy that way, and realizing the candy was completely blocking the windpipe, Shalom flipped the child over on his stomach and began administering measured back blows in the hopes of causing the child to dislodge the candy before he lost consciousness.
Shalom simultaneously requested a mobile intensive care ambulance from the dispatch center. After close to two minutes of alternating between back blows and chest compressions, the candy flew out of the child’s mouth. The young boy began to wail, his cries were a sign that he could once again breathe and that despite the pain and fear that he was experiencing, his airway was clear and the danger had passed.
After a quick check that the child’s condition was fine, and that no pieces of candy were left behind inside the child’s throat, Shalom handed him to his frantic mother.
“I stayed with the family until the ambulance came, it took around ten minutes,” Shalom recalled. “Even though the mother decided not to take her child to the hospital, I thought it was important to stay with the family. The mother had watched me save her child’s life, and she was still shaken up. In cases of choking, every second counts, and the fact that I happened to be nearby was the reason that the child is alive today. If he were to wait an additional ten minutes until the ambulance arrived, he would probably not have survived.”