Nfld. & Labrador

4 first aid courses and 3 quick blows: How this St. John's teen saved a life

Carter Short, 14, jumped into action to help a friend's grandfather

Carter Short, 14, jumped into action to help a friend's grandfather who was visiting his school

Carter Short poses with John Graham, a friend's grandfather who choked during lunch at a school event. Short administered three back blows, which freed the stuck piece of food. (Submitted)

Sitting with his classmates at the year-end assembly, Carter Short noticed a man on stage he didn't recognize.

He wasn't a teacher and the school hadn't announced any guest speakers — who was he?

As one of his teachers started speaking at the podium — something about "jumping into action" — Carter noticed the large, red cross on the mystery man's jacket.

It all fell into place.

"Isn't he? Yeah, he's the Red Cross — Oh Lord," the 14-year-old from St. John's remembers thinking as he realized he'd soon be the centre of attention.

The man was Ancel Langille, the Red Cross manager who oversees the Atlantic provinces, and he was at King's-Edgehill School, a private school in Windsor, N.S., to present Carter an award.  

Grandfather in trouble

Carter was recognized for his quick thinking and decisive action months earlier, which saved an elderly man choking on his lunch.

It happened in October, when King's-Edgehill celebrated Grandparents' Day.

Students' grandmothers and grandfathers were invited to campus to spend the day.

At lunch, Short sat with his grandmother, some friends and their grandparents.  

Carter received the Red Cross Rescuer Award from senior manager Ancel Langille during a school assembly. (

Everyone was chatting as they ate, but when a friend's grandfather, John Graham, bit into his potato salad, Carter could tell something wasn't right.

"He had this shock in his face," Carter told CBC Radio's The St. John's Morning Show. "He was scared, he was confused."

Carter said Graham pushed his chair away from the table, in obvious distress. The young student, who's taken four separate courses on first aid and other life-saving skills, knew what to do.

"This is when I jumped up and started doing three back blows," Carter said.

"And on the third one, he stopped."

Carter, 14, says everyone should know basic first aid, because there's no telling when an emergency can unfold. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Carter explained the correct way to help a choking victim. While many of us immediately think of the Heimlich manoeuvre, St. John Ambulance and other first aid experts say to first administer up to five blows to the victim's back before moving on to abdominal thrusts if necessary.

Graham spit out the piece of potato and once the commotion settled, thanked Carter profusely. The teenager said thanks weren't necessary; "I just did it," he said.

Months later, Carter said he was surprised to receive the Red Cross Rescuer Award. He said the situation reinforced for him something he already knew: that emergencies can happen at any time.

"It happens out of nowhere, you can't just predict it," he said. "Everyone should know how to do simple first aid."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show


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