Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Date: April 24, 1989
In many parts of the country, the Camp Fire Organization goes into schools to teach children a self-reliance course called "I Can Do It." The idea behind the program is that no matter how young children may be, they can learn to take care of themselves.
On April 24, 1989, Donna McEnany of the Camp Fire Organization was conducting a chapter of the course for second graders at Runnels School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The topic being covered that day was "I Can Handle a Real Emergency." Seven-year-old Kyle Wilkinson volunteered to role play a choking situation with Donna in front of the class. Donna then demonstrated the Heimlich Maneuver on Kyle, instructing students when and how to administer the proper abdominal thrusts on a victim.
Caryl Wilkinson picked up her son after school. Kyle was riding in the backseat of the van with his brother and sister, three-year-old twins Joshua and Jessica. Kyle and his mother chatted about his school day on the drive home. He was telling her how his classmates had thrown worms on their teacher when suddenly he noticed what Joshua was doing. "Mom, Joshua's choking! Stop the car!" yelled Kyle.
Caryl looked in the rearview mirror and saw that Joshua was purple. She stopped the car and jumped out, and by the time she ran around to the passenger side, Kyle had already pulled Joshua out of his car seat and was standing behind him on the side of the road, his arms wrapped around Joshua's small body as he attempted to do the Heimlich Maneuver. "Give him to me!" Caryl screamed at Kyle. She didn't know why Kyle was hugging Joshua like that. "No, Mama. I'm doing the right thing!" cried Kyle as he administered abdominal thrusts. "You're hurting him! Give him to me!" Kyle ignored his mother and continued administering thrusts. Suddenly a piece of candy popped out of Joshua's mouth. Joshua started crying, and Caryl knew he was breathing on his own.
Within three hours of being taught the Heimlich Maneuver, Kyle had used it to save his brother's life. "What's even more amazing," says his second grade teacher, "is that Kyle took the situation into his own hands when his mother didn't know what to do." "I was surprised because everything worked out well," says Kyle. "It makes me feel glad because Joshua's still alive and I still get to play with him."
"I'm really proud of Kyle," says Caryl. "Not just because he saved Joshua's life, but because he's shown other people and other children that you can do something like this, you can help." Caryl praises the Camp Fire Organization for their work. "I was so grateful that they taught Kyle the Heimlich Maneuver. They'd done something I really needed, something everybody needs to learn."