September 19, 2012
“It’s because of Safe Sitter® that my son is still with us. I cry when I think of what could have been.”—Todd Muscatello, EMS Coordinator, Rutland Regional Medical Center ER/EMS Provider, Regional Ambulance Service, Vermont
As an EMS professional, Todd Muscatello sees potential life and death situations every day. However, he didn’t expect that one of his own children would need to jump into action in a way that he’s accustomed. His 13-year-old daughter, Alexis, used skills she’d learned in a Safe Sitter® class to save the life of her younger brother.
One day this past June, after her mother, Shannon, had left for work at the medical center and Todd was in a paramedic class, Alexis was in charge of her brother Joel, 10. It was early in the morning and, because Alexis had been given permission to sleep in, Joel decided to head downstairs by himself for a snack. His snack of choice, carrots, got stuck in his throat so he grabbed a drink of water to wash them down.
“That’s when I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t even cough,” Joel recounted. “I started to feel a little woozy.”
Unable to breathe, Joel knew he needed to get help fast. He also knew Alexis would know what to do so he ran to her room. After he shook his big sister awake, she could instantly tell by the pale color of his face and the way he was clutching his throat that he was choking.
As Joel began to slump, Alexis turned him around and performed the Heimlich Maneuver, calmly administering one strong thrust that dislodged the carrot. Joel could breathe again. Despite being jarred out of sleep by a brother in distress, Alexis said she knew what she needed to do because she learned it in Safe Sitter®.
“I knew he was choking and I had to do the Heimlich Maneuver,” she said. “I knew what to do and how to do it. And I wasn’t scared at all, at least not until it was over.”
When it was over, Alexis called her mother at work. Only then did she cry when recounting the near-tragic episode. Shannon rushed home to comfort both of her children.
“I was completely stunned,” said Shannon. “Lexi and Joel were Joel’s room and she was holding his hand and rubbing his back. I just kept telling her how proud I was of her.”
As a parent, Todd is thankful for his daughter’s life-saving action. As an EMS professional, he’s proud.
“She’s my hero! Her quick thinking and instant reaction saved her brother’s life,” he said. “We’re just so grateful that Rutland Regional offers Safe Sitter®. We can’t thank the Instructors enough. I’m almost speechless.”
Safe Sitter® is the only national non-profit solely devoted to preparing young teens (11-14) to confidently care for themselves and younger children when adults aren’t present. As the Muscatello’s story illustrates, it’s beneficial for latchkey kids, kids who watch younger siblings and teens hired as babysitters. Not only does Safe Sitter® have the usual first aid components, it also provides training on behavior management that helps teen caretakers identify and prevent situations that could lead to emergencies.
Among Safe Sitter® Instructors from EMS departments, there are examples where relationships between Instructors and their own children have improved because the children have developed a practical understanding of their parents’ work and learned to better appreciate what their parents do. Safe Sitter® helps children feel more connected with their parents because they see that they too can save lives. Those in the emergency responder field view Safe Sitter® as a long-term investment in reducing the number of emergency calls.