Everyday Heroes

Teen Hailed a Hero for Saving Choking Classmate

When Caitlyn Kiliarny saw her friend choking she knew exactly what to do to save his life. Afterwards there were more unexpected twists and turns.


17-year old Caitlin Kiliany is a lifeguard. She's trained in CPR. She knows that in a medical emergency, there's no time to waste.

So when her friend started choking on a piece of chicken while their high school class was on a field trip, she jumped into action. Now she's being hailed a hero for saving his life.

(Image: Ambridge School District website , Caitlin Kiliany far left, Joshua Peters, far right)

According to the Beaver County Times, Caitlin and 17-year old Joshua Peters, both seniors (and in the choir) at Ambridge Area (PA) High School were with their biotechnology class at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh a week and a half ago.

"During lunch, Joshua was eating chicken tenders when one got stuck in his throat."

He couldn't breathe, but as a Boy Scout, he knew not to panic, and put his hands to his neck to signal he was choking.

"I might die. It might just all end here, and that's a very sobering thought to have." Joshua Peters, choking victim

Caitlin, who was sitting nearby, saw others trying to help, but not knowing exactly how. Even though she's only 5'2" and Joshua is 5'7" she was able to wrap her arms around his abdomen and do the Heimlich maneuver, expelling the piece of chicken and allowing Joshua to breathe again.

According to the Times, Caitlin learned the Heimlich about a year ago when she became certified as a lifeguard at the YMCA near her home.

For her lifeguard credentials, she took a class in first aid, and was certified in CPR, how to use an automated external defibrillator, and how to do the Heimlich maneuver.

Paramedics rushed Joshua to the hospital where his inability to swallow even liquids had doctors believing something was still lodged in his airway.

Joshua made himself vomit to clear his throat so he could be discharged more quickly -- he was so anxious because that night was the opening performance of the high school's musical "South Pacific" in which he had a leading role. Doctors released him and he made it through the first act before he began struggling again to swallow and couldn't continue. After another trip to the hospital and an endoscopy to clear his digestive tract, Joshua was good to go for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances of the show, in which Caitlin, ironically, played a nurse.

"He told me he was very, very grateful for what I did. He was so happy I was there." Caitlin Kiliany, saved friend with Heimlich maneuver

Back at school Monday, classmates hailed Caitlin as a hero, clapping for her when she entered the senior section of the cafeteria at lunch. And to put a "bow" on the happy ending to this story, Joshua asked Caitlin to the prom!

Of course she said yes.

The teens tell the Times they're both surprised that no one except Caitlyn apparently knew how to do the Heimlich when Joshua was choking. They're now advocating for their school and others to offer first aid as an elective in school.

"It's an important skill to have," said Caitlyn.

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