TIFTON -- Those who aren't convinced that training to handle emergency situations is worth the time should talk with a local woman credited with saving her son from choking to death.

Angie Dowdy of Enigma said she and her son Derek, 10, were traveling on U.S. Highway 82 east to a Christmas tea at her sister's Alapaha home Nov. 30 when her son inhaled a jaw breaker and couldn't speak.

"We were talking and then he couldn't speak," said Dowdy. "I realized he was choking so I pulled off into the median and performed the Heimlich maneuver."

Dowdy said the jaw breaker remained in Derek's throat until they arrived at the emergency room and a doctor there removed it, but he could talk and breath without too much difficulty.

"He begged me to stay home because he didn't want to go to the party and I wouldn't let him," said Dowdy. "I'm glad I made him go because it might have happened while I wasn't around."

Dowdy, who is employed in the district attorney's Tifton office, took a Community CPR and First Aid class offered by the local American Red Cross 10 years ago, but remembered enough about the choking training to perform the procedure.

Dowdy said two employee representatives of each Tift County department were required to take the classes.

"I normally panic, but I didn't," said Dowdy. "I remembered enough and just did what had to be done."

"In a situation like that, you have to ask yourself what you should do and it will come back," said Jimmy Phagan, the health and safety administrator at the local American Red Cross.

"Some people will panic, but if you know what to do, instincts will take over," said Phagan.

Phagan said the Red Cross encourages everyone to take the first aid classes, which in addition to CPR and choking training include rescue breathing training, instruction on how to properly use the Automated External Defibrillator (AED), instruction on controlling bleeding and applying splints and more.

"We encourage all industries to have someone on each shift take the course," said Phagan. "We take the program into the community in any combination of classes people require. We'll teach the classes any time."

Red Cross Director Laurie Vitale said her rescue training proved a valuable time investment when her then 2 and a half-year-old choked on a lollipop. Vitale said she, her daughter and two older sons were traveled on a dark, deserted road when she gave her daughter the lollipop.

"She grabbed it off the stick and it got caught in her throat," said Vitale. "I pulled over and got her out of her car seat and pulled her to the front. I looked in her mouth and couldn't see it, so I gave her a sharp blow to the back as I was trained to do and the candy flew across the car."

Vitale said all Red Cross disaster volunteers are required to take the CPR and first aid training classes. She encourages everyone, especially those who work around children, to take the classes.

Anyone interested in taking CPR/first aid classes or purchasing an AED can call the Tiftarea Chapter of the American Red Cross at 382-3133.

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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