Boy saves older brother from choking to death

EVERETT — Blaine Stevens isn’t sure what moved him to act one day last summer. He’s just glad he did.

It was late afternoon on July 18 when Blaine, then 12, noticed his 14-year-old brother, Gage, choking on a corn dog. Unable to breath, Gage started turning blue.

Blaine called 911. He began performing the Heimlich maneuver.

Reflecting on those stressful moments, Blaine’s not sure where he learned about the technique to clear a choking victim’s airway.

“I guess it was just in school,” he said this week. “The dispatcher also helped me.”

On the other end of the phone line, Jason Carman from SNOPAC walked Blaine through steps to try to save his brother’s life.

Dispatchers received the choking call at 5:52 p.m. Given the severity of the situation, they escalated the response. A medic unit and two fire engines were on their way.

“It seemed like hours,” Blaine said.

A person with an obstructed airway can pass out within minutes. After patients lose consciousness, they face a serious risk of brain injury or death.

That’s what was going through paramedics’ minds when they approached Blaine and Gage’s house a couple of blocks from Evergreen Middle School. They were prepared for a CPR call. They expected to race the clock to revive an unconscious patient.

The Heimlich, however, can clear the airway, bringing an immediate improvements. If administered in time, the person stays awake. No CPR is necessary.

Moreover, it’s easy to learn.

The basic technique involves wrapping your arms around the choking victim’s waist from behind. The rescuer makes a fist and puts the thumb side into the victim’s abdomen, above the naval and below the rib cage. Grabbing the fist with the other hand, the rescuer then makes quick, upward thrusts until the object is expelled.

Gage’s life depended on Blaine making it work.

When Everett paramedics and firefighters pulled up to their house, they saw two boys standing out front — Blaine and Gage.

Blaine had succeeded in dislodging the corn dog. It’s unclear how much longer Gage could have held out. As paramedics stepped out to assess him, he was still groggy.

“By the time we got there, your brother was still a little blue,” senior paramedic Pete McFall reminded Blaine this week. “You were anxious, you were a little scared, but you were thrilled that you were able to make a difference.”

Fire Capt. Rich Shrauner was there, too.

“I’ve been doing this almost 30 years and I’ve never seen a young person do the Heimlich like that,” he said.

It was an emotional day for the brothers and the emergency workers.

Everett firefighters, including Chief Murray Gordon, recognized Blaine on Tuesday during a ceremony at Everett Fire Station 5 on Beverly Boulevard. It was one of two stations that sent personnel to the original call. A framed certified honored Blaine for his heroism.

“It’s a special person who, in the face of extreme emotional stress, will jump into action,” Gordon said.

Gordon would know. That’s what the firefighters under his command do every day. It’s part of what makes the fire service an attractive career for Blaine.

“It’s one of my dream jobs,” he said.

Blaine, now 13, attends Evergreen Middle. Gage goes to school in Vancouver, Wash., and was unable to make it to Tuesday’s ceremony.

“My brother means a lot to me,” Blaine said. “I’m just glad I could save his life.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;

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