Charlie’s first aid story: “First aid training is worth every penny”


Charlie, from Sunderland, was out for a meal with friends when a lady at a nearby table in the restaurant began to choke.

The quick-thinking dad-of-one noticed her friend was frantically hitting her on the back and others at the table were shouting for help, so he leaped into action.

Charlie quickly introduced himself to the woman and told her he was trained in first aid. After realising the back blows didn’t seem to be working, he told her he would start to give her abdominal thrusts, by putting his arms around her waist and, with a clenched fist, pulling sharply inwards and upwards. After the third abdominal thrust, the food which was stuck in her throat, was dislodged and she could breathe again.

Charlie described the situation: "There were tears rolling down the face of the woman. Her face was getting redder and redder. Her friend was crying and shouting "please help her".

"I started doing abdominal thrusts and whatever was in her throat came out after the third one. It was such a relief to hear her take a breath.

How to help someone choking

Someone who is choking may be clutching at their chest or neck and won’t be able to speak, breathe or cough. Follow the steps below to help or watch our video:

Steps to take:
1. Encourage them to cough

If they are mildly choking, coughing is usually enough to help clear the blockage

If they are unable to cough move to step 2.

2. Give up to five back blows.

Help the person lean well forward and hit them firmly on their back between the shoulder blades, checking after each blow whether the blockage has cleared.

Back blows create a strong vibration and pressure in the airway, which is often enough to dislodge the blockage. Dislodging the object will allow them to breathe again.

If back blows do not dislodge the object, move on to step 3.

3. Give up to five abdominal thrusts.

Hold the person around the waist with both hands, placing a clenched fist above their belly button. Pull sharply inwards and upwards.

Abdominal thrusts squeeze air out of the lungs and may dislodge the object.*

4. If they are still choking, call 999.

Continue with cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the object dislodges, or help arrives.

*Always seek urgent medical advice, such as through the non-emergency helpline or by attending hospital, if you have given abdominal thrusts to an adult or child.

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“First aid training is worth every penny.”
Reflecting on his experience, Charlie said: "It was so scary but also humbling. I've been thinking about it none stop since it happened. It just shows how first aid training is worth every penny as it really can save somebody’s life.

"She could have, and probably would have, died. I am proud of myself."

After the incident, not wanting the woman to feel embarrassed, Charlie immediately went back to his friends before going outside to calm himself down and ring his partner.

But Charlie's life-saving heroics didn't go unnoticed as the woman’s husband and the restaurant owners bought him and his friends a round of beers to say thanks.

Charlie added: "It was all so surreal. The whole thing happened in 15 to 20 seconds, from realising she was choking to getting what was stuck out."

Charlie completed his First aid at work training with the British Red Cross through his company in 2019 and has always been passionate about health and safety.

When asked if he would recommend first aid training to others, he told us “One hundred per cent. As well as having the knowledge of first aid, it’s all about having the confidence to step in when a real emergency is presented in front of you. And first aid training helps you do just that,”

Charlie's story is a strong reminder of the importance of learning first aid. At the British Red Cross, we offer a wide range of first aid training courses for the workplace to help you to have the skills and confidence to act in a first aid emergency like this.

Ready to learn first aid or brush up on your existing skills? Book a course with us today and build up your confidence to save a life.