It’s rare that we find ourselves in life-or-death emergencies, so much so that many people can go their entire lives without experiencing one. As a result, people tend to be at a loss for what to do when the moment finally arises.
So when one person found themselves on the edge of death and in need of help, they were horrified to find that the people around them weren’t prepared to act. Luckily, someone in the area was.
For kids whose parents own a restaurant, it’s almost a certainty that they’ll have to put in some hours working there when they reach the appropriate age. Things were no different for Dominic, whose family had a restaurant in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, called Victoria’s.
Not so Bad
A sophomore in high school, the 16-year-old Dominic would help out often after school and on weekends. Unlike some kids who dread working in the family business, he didn’t mind much. After all, he got to eat for free.
Dominic was putting in a shift on a Sunday in July that started off like any other. After putting in a few hours, it was time to stop and have a meal for himself. Like a typical high school kid, he put in an order with the kitchen for a cheeseburger.
He was sitting down to enjoy his well-earned meal when some sort of commotion started at one of the other tables in the restaurant. When Dominic looked up from his plate, he recognized that there was women in serious distress.
“All of a sudden, the lady began to choke … and I stood up and there was a circle around her,” Dominic said. The other people at the woman’s table as well as some of the patrons at other tables were watching, but seemed frozen. “No one knew what to do, everyone was scared.”
I’ve Got This
Despite his young age, the teenager immediately sprang to action and took command of the situation. “I said for everyone to get out of the way, I knew what to do,” he said. He ran into the middle of the circle where the woman was choking badly on her food.
She was at the point where her face was turning blue from lack of oxygen. So Dominic Argenta immediately made the only correct move. “I started performing the Heimlich,” something he’d been trained to do at school.
At the same time, someone had called 911 and paramedics were racing to the scene. “We were dispatched for a female who was choking, not breathing,” said Commonwealth Health paramedic Erin Dalia. In situations like that where a person isn’t breathing, the minutes it takes for an ambulance to arrive can be an eternity.
But by the time the paramedics arrived at Victoria’s, things were very different from what they’d expected. “We showed up to a very different picture,” Erin said. “She was smiling with her family, she was at her granddaughter’s birthday.”
“We came to find out that Dominic used the Heimlich maneuver using his training and saved her life,” she continued. Utilizing the technique, he was able to dislodge the food that was stuck in the woman’s throat, which happened to be a piece of lettuce.
Lucky He Was There
Because everyone else on the scene seemed to be frozen with fear or unsure of what to do, it’s quite possible that the woman would have died if Dominic hadn’t been there to apply his training.
Time Is of The Essence
“We often rely on the bystanders to start CPR, start the Heimlich maneuver, and that really gives us the difference between life and death sometimes,” Erin said. That’s because when a person is choking, they can usually go five to ten minutes before serious permanent damage occurs and the average ambulance response time is about ten minutes.
Dominic said that he’d first learned how to perform the Heimlich in eighth grade and was taught the technique again in high school. However, this was the first time that he’d needed to use the technique in real life.
After he had saved the woman’s life, Dominic was naturally being hailed as a hero. He kept a cool head and did what no one else seemed able to do in a life-and-death situation. But if you ask him, it wasn’t anything all that extraordinary.
Cool as a Cucumber
“I don’t feel like a hero,” he said. “I did what I had to do, and then I went back to eating my cheeseburger.” While his humility is nice to hear, it’s hard to accept that what he did was anything short of heroic.
Even though he didn’t feel he was worthy of any sort of special praise, Lackawana County commissioners wanted to recognize Dominic for what he’d done. They arranged for a ceremony to be held at Victoria’s to honor him.
State Representative Marty Flynn and the paramedics that responded to the 911 call were on hand for the ceremony, though the woman who Dominic had saved was unable to make it. However she shared her gratitude with him and his family at a different time.
You Can Do It Too
This story highlights the importance of knowing how to do the Heimlich, which is a simple technique that can be learned in just a few minutes. There are any number of resources online that can show you how to do it.
It’s also important to note that you can perform the Heimlich on yourself if you are choking. This is accomplished by pushing your abdomen into the edge of a table, forcing the air in your lungs up into whatever is lodged in your windpipe.
But perhaps most importantly, this story is a reminder that a person’s greatest asset in an emergency situation is their ability to keep calm and take decisive action. For Dominic’s ability to do just that, he has to be acknowledged as a hero.