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Following a basketball game in Kamloops, B.C, the senior boys team from Clearwater Secondary School stopped at a fast-food chain to grab a bite to eat. They weren’t the only basketball team there: the Barriere Junior Girls team had also stopped in for a post-game meal.

Sixteen-year-old Jairus and his teammates were in line to order when suddenly, someone screamed out for help. “We heard ‘Help, he’s choking!’” says Jairus. Their coach, Geoff, was also with them and had witnessed the driver from the other team suddenly stand up, then collapse face-down on the floor.

“The first thing I noticed was that there were three or four other adults in the restaurant,” explains Geoff. “Every one of them headed for the door. The other coach was trying to help but was struggling.” Geoff quickly rushed over to lift the victim in order to perform the Obstructed Airway Manoeuvre, but suddenly felt something pop: Geoff had torn his bicep trying to lift the victim.

Jairus and a teammate immediately asked how they could help; they had learned how to perform the Obstructed Airway Manoeuvre from their teacher, Marie, as part of the ACT High School CPR Program that was established in 2009 at Clearwater Secondary School, with the support of Interior Savings Credit Union.

Together, Jairus and his friend helped place the victim back on the ground carefully, then Jairus started compressions. “The boys continued for what seemed like forever, but it was probably 2 to 3 minutes,” says Geoff. “To have Jairus and his friend jump in with no questions asked, it was impressive because nobody else seemed to know what to do. They weren’t panicking. All the kids around them were crying and screaming but these two stayed calm.”

By then, the driver was completely blue and no pulse could be detected. “I could see that when compressions were administered, the driver’s abdomen was getting harder and harder,” says Geoff. Jairus adds: “We thought we had lost him. I was exhausted, but my friend told me to keep going.” Suddenly, the driver coughed and spat up the blockage, and his breath slowly returned as paramedics arrived. A few days later, the driver sent a heartfelt note thanking everyone for their efforts, which had saved his life.

The incident has left Jairus more aware than ever of the need to be prepared for an emergency. “It can happen anywhere, and at any time. The driver choked on a burger – a simple thing like that! I see people taking too big of a bite or not paying attention and I always caution them, because watching something like that stays with you.”

“If I hadn’t had any training, I probably would have been one of the teens who had just stood there. Because I was trained, I had a feeling of knowing what to do, and how important it was that the man got help. The training had given me the confidence to help right away.”

The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is a national charitable organization that has empowered more than 2.6 million youth across Canada to save lives. ACT is working in partnership with BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) and community partners to bring this lifesaving program to all of British Columbia’s public standard secondary schools. BCEHS provides ongoing project funding and BCAS paramedics (when and where available) volunteer their time to train secondary school teachers to teach their students CPR and now, how to use an AED. AstraZeneca Canada, Pfizer Canada and Sanofi Canada are ACT’s health partners in British Columbia and across Canada, and are committed to the Foundation’s goal of promoting health while ensuring lifesaving skills become basic life skills for generations of Canadians.