“I started choking,” said Jennifer Yakubesan.
It was a typical evening. The family was eating supper before church, somewhere in the wilds of Macomb County, Michigan. It was spaghetti. The flagship food of functional, happy families everywhere.
“I couldn’t get it up…” says Jennifer. “I looked at my husband and my son, and I started to make this kind of patting on my chest.”
Enter Andrew. Thirteen years old. Tall. Baby face. Looks like a nice kid. A Boy Scout.
Jennifer was about to lose consciousness when she felt her son’s arms wrap around her. He wedged his fist below her sternum. He began squeezing.
The Heimlich maneuver is not simple. It requires strength. Place one clenched fist above navel. Grasp fist with other hand. Pull fist backward and upward, sharply. If this doesn’t work, go for chest compressions. If this doesn’t work, slap victim between shoulder blades.
If this doesn’t work, begin praying the Rosary.
The Heimlich didn’t work. So Andrew slapped his mother’s back. It was a hail Mary pass, but it saved her.
“I think someone was with me there,” said Andrew. “I don’t know if it was God—or something.”
Andrew was given the National Merit Award by the Boy Scouts.
Meantime, approximately six states away, Boy Scout Troop 1299, of Allen, Texas, was on a bus trip to Wyoming. Going to summer camp.
The boys were doing what all boys on buses do. Laughing. Hanging out. Making powerful smells.
They had a few days to kill in Yellowstone National Park. They had seen most of the park except a portion of the northern loop.
Which is where they were when it happened.
“We were on our way to lunch,” says Brian, an adult volunteer. “We were passing by these falls, and we were like, ‘Let’s just stop real quick and let the adults take some pictures,’”
They parked. Deboarded. Everyone’s dad stretched his respective lumbar region. A stranger ran up to the group and frantically asked if there was a doctor on the bus.
A doctor, no. Scouts, yes.
In moments, scouters were jogging the trail, ready to help a woman having an emergency on the trail. They found a lady lying in the dirt.
Cardiac arrest. A crowd of rubberneckers gathered around her. There was an off-duty nurse performing chest compressions.
“She’s not breathing,” the nurse shouted.
Scoutmaster Jason Duglosch fetched the automated external defibrillator (AED) from the bus.
Now, I’ll pause here. Because I can hear some of you asking, “Why did a bunch of average Boy Scouts from Texas have a piece of expensive portable medical equipment on their bus?”
The answer is: Because they’re Boy Scouts.
Today, the woman is alive and well. And she’s got quite a story to tell.
A few weeks later, in Claiborne County, Tennessee, Crystal Thacker took meds for a sinus infection and had an allergic reaction. One minute she was fine; the next, she was on the floor, dying.
“It almost felt like when your foot’s asleep,” she remembers, “…it was very hard to breathe.”
Crystal’s 16-year-old son, Stewart, knew his mother was in anaphylactic shock. He also knew what to do while first responders were en route. This is because Stewart is a Boy Scout. Troop 310. He has over 200 hours of medical training.
“I took an old blanket and other stuff on the porch and made sort of a sunroof shelter, and reapplied ice packs. And then the ambulance showed up.”
Stewart was presented with the National Certificate of Merit.
This kind of stuff happens every day, although you rarely hear about it. Yes, you hear plenty of other stuff about the Boy Scouts in the news. But it’s seldom good. This is partially why the Scouts are disappearing from the national landscape.
When I was a kid, there were roughly 5 million Boy Scouts on the planet. I was one.
Twenty U.S. presidents were Boy Scouts. John Wayne was a Scout. Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin. Sam Walton. Hank Aaron. Martin Luther King Jr.
Today, however, there are approximately 762,000 Scouts left in the U.S. The reason for this sharp decline isn’t important right now. I’m not here to raise issues. I’m not here to cause trouble. I’m not smart enough offer an enlightened opinion.
I do, however, want to deliver a message to any wayward kids who are thinking about joining the Scouts, but are unsure because their friends think being a Scout is nerdy and lame.
Being a Scout is a lot more than making wallets and building birdhouses.
The Boy Scouts of America save lives.