Here’s proof that it only takes one person to make a difference and become a hero. When Florida paramedic Tabitha Parker saved her son from choking, she turned the near tragedy into a teaching moment for her family — and just weeks later, her 8-year-old daughter saved her stepdad’s life using exactly what she’d learned from her mother.
Sunday morning went from calm to crisis.
Michael Langston carried his sandwich and root beer to the living room and settled on the couch to play video games. It was a quiet Sunday morning. His stepkids, Peyton, 8, and Keegan, 6, were in Peyton’s room watching television, while their mom, Tabitha Parker, worked a weekend shift as a paramedic in Manatee County, Florida.
“I’m thirsty,” Keegan said as he passed through the living room to the kitchen.
Just then, Michael took a big bite of his sandwich. Too big. Choking and unable to breathe, Michael panicked.
Keegan was standing at the refrigerator when Michael burst into the room, pounding his chest and pointing to his throat. Keegan realized his stepfather was choking — as his own recent harrowing experience flooded back.
Heroism runs in the family.
Three weeks earlier, the family had been enjoying movie night and breakfast for dinner in front of the TV, when a piece of bacon had lodged in Keegan’s windpipe.
Tabitha went straight into paramedic mode. She clutched Keegan tight against her hip and delivered two modified Heimlich compressions. The bacon popped free. “You’re going to be fine,” she assured her little boy as Keegan gasped and sobbed.
“Thank God you were here,” Michael said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Tabitha realized she might not be there next time, and decided, “I need to teach you guys what to do in case this happens again and I’m not around.”
Tabitha described how the Heimlich maneuver worked. “Like this,” she said and demonstrated the technique first on Michael, then on Keegan. Peyton watched intently.
“Don’t worry, if it ever happens again, I know what to do,” she told her mom.
There was no time to panic.
Now, Keegan prayed that was true because he was so terrified that he forgot everything his mom had shown them.
“Dad’s choking!” he shouted as he raced to his sister’s room, with Michael, his head swooning, trailing behind him.
As Michael stumbled into the room, Peyton leapt off her bed and rushed to her stepdad. Without a second’s hesitation, she wrapped her arms around the man, who was a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than her. She clasped her hands the way her mom had shown her, hand over fist, and thrust with all her might.
It didn’t work. And she could feel Michael’s body starting to shake. So she took a deep breath, braced herself and tried one more time. Michael was on the verge of unconsciousness when Peyton made a third desperate try. This time, his airway cleared.
He sucked in a deep breath. “Thank you,” he gasped.
One simple lesson saved a life.
“Peyton saved you! I knew she could!” Keegan exclaimed. This was proof that even kids can be heroes.
“She sure did,” Michael panted, and that evening when they told Tabitha what had happened, she beamed with pride and gratitude, sentiments reflected in Michael’s eyes.
“I wouldn’t be alive without her,” Michael says.
As for Peyton, she is just glad she was able to save her stepdad, insisting modestly, “All I did was listen to my mom and then do what she showed me.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.