Cork grandfather's first-aid training kicks in as he saves choking child

A man who saved a choking toddler from almost certain death has urged people to learn basic first aid.
Cork grandfather's first-aid training kicks in as he saves choking child
Paul Curtin who saved a toddler from choking on MacCurtain Street, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

A man who saved a choking toddler from almost certain death has urged people to learn basic first aid.

Paul Curtin, from Castlemagner in North Cork, said the life-saving 'back-blow' technique he used to save the child's life is simple and easy to learn and can make the difference between life and death.

"It was 30-seconds out of my life but it saved this child's life," he said.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet what I did. I'm emotional and proud and just happy that I was able to help."

Paul, a grandfather to two little girls, Amelia, six, and Daisy, two, who are about the same age as the choking tot, was driving to work with Enable Ireland along MacCurtain St in Cork at around 8.30am on Wednesday morning when he spotted a woman standing near a parked waving her arms frantically at passing motorists.

He told Neil Prendeville on RedFM that he knew something was wrong and he stopped immediately to see if he could help.

Standing over six feet tall, Paul has several piercings and tattoos on both arms and said the mother probably got a fright when she saw him approach.

"I stopped and jumped out of my car and asked if she needed a hand, and out of the corner of my eye I could there was two children in the back of her car," he said.

"I thought a bee had gotten into the car or something."

The mother managed to explain that one of the children was choking but was in such a panic she couldn't open the car door.

Paul, who underwent first aid training through his work with Enable Ireland, told the Irish Examiner later that his first aid training kicked in automatically. He opened the car door, reached in and released the seat belt on the struggling child's car seat. He said the child, aged three, was clearly in distress.

"Her lips were gong blue and I could see that the oxygen was draining from her face," he said.

He removed the child from the car, placed her face-down over one of his knees, and gave her one sharp slap between her shoulder blades, dislodging what appeared to be a jelly sweet.

The child gasped for breath and started crying. Paul said he handed her back to her distraught mother and advised that she take the child to hospital for a check-up.

He then got back in his car and headed to work.

Remarkably, as he was driving home along the Commons Road later that day, he was flagged down by a passing motorist.

He stopped and saw the child's mother, Sharon, get out of the car. She had recognised one of his tattooed arms as they drove along the road.

She apologised to him for not saying 'thank you' earlier, took his phone number and said she hoped one day to tell her daughter, Sophie, how he had saved her life, and that maybe she'd be able to phone him to say 'thank you' herself.

Paul said through his work with Enable Ireland, he undergoes refresher first aid courses every few years.

"You don't think you'll ever need to use it but it's always in the back of your mind," he said. He said the enormity of what had happened was only beginning to sink in now.

That first aid move is one of the easiest techniques to learn and you'd be surprised how easily it sticks in your mind for when you need it.

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