Last spring Keiffer Campbell was a few hours into a shift as a security guard at a government welfare office in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, when he noticed some commotion not far from his post.
He went over to investigate and saw a toddler choking. He also witnessed panicked people gathered around the boy. They were striking the child on his back and around his head. One woman even put her hand down the small child’s throat. causing the two-year-old boy to bleed.
Campbell immediately took over, knowing that people were well-meaning, but that they were endangering the child’s life.
“I told everybody to calm down,” he says, remembering the spring night.
The child was choking on a piece of candy and wasn’t breathing at all, he recalls. His CPR training kicked in, immediately, and he performed the Heimlich maneuver designed for toddlers, meaning the use of two fingers to pump at the breast bone of child’s small body. He had to do this while the boy’s father was still holding him.
“He was panicked and confused and wouldn’t let go,” Campbell says. Finally, “after about 15 seconds of pumping the child’s tummy, the piece of candy flew out of the baby’s mouth,” Campbell recalls. The child was able to breathe again, and was rushed to an area hospital.
For choking adults, the Heimlich maneuver requires firm thrusts in a person’s abdomen. But for very young children and for the elderly, the maneuver requires a modified technique, Campbell explains.
Campbell, 29, normally works the night shift at Sleep Inn in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to allow the time to take courses at Baruch College by day. He’s studying for a degree in accounting. Already an accredited enrolled agent – a federally authorized tax practitioner – he is accumulating business skills and accreditations for his planned future as a business owner. He’s still exploring what kind of business he will open, but he’s aiming for the “physical services,” which might be “food, construction or cleaning,” he says.
Should anyone find themselves in a situation where someone is choking, his advice is clear: “Don’t panic, because that will cause worse problems.” Also, do not to put one’s hands down someone’s throat, as that will likely lodge the obstruction deeper, he warns.
Campbell says his life-saving actions were just part of his training, and he insists that he was just doing his job. He has kept in contact with the boy’s father, whom he reports says the boy is doing well. He says he holds a soft spot for the toddler, and is planning to give him a present at Christmastime.