On a day off from school, 11-year-old Dylan Stanley decided to join his mom at her office.

And it just so happened that his mom, dentist Kate Stanley, was holding the every-other-year CPR training for her staff that day.

“Dylan was reluctant at first,” Kate said. “He wanted to just read or watch TV instead. But then he really got into it.”

With his mother as a partner, Dylan learned the proper CPR technique. He felt good enough about what he learned to take the training test, and passed.

At dinner that night, Kate quizzed Dylan about what he learned. She even asked what he would do if his 10-month-old brother Evan choked.


Four days later, Dylan’s father, David, went to pick up Dylan from football practice, leaving his 8-year-old brother, Brenden, and Evan with their grandfather, Don Nielson at their home in Overland Park, Kan. It was a quick trip, with David and Dylan returning about 15 minutes later.

Yet in that time, Evan found his way into the food bowl for the family dog, Joey. The precocious infant then stuffed a handful of the hard pellets into his mouth.

David and Dylan returned to find Don holding Evan upside down and panicking.

“Evan’s choking!” Don shouted

David grabbed the baby and shouted for Don to call 9-1-1. He then began whacking Evan on the back and pressing on his abdomen. Evan was struggling to breathe and Brenden was crying.

Dylan, meanwhile, was “stone-cold calm,” David said.

“Stop,” Dylan told his dad. “You’re doing it wrong.”

David said the calm-but-assertive confidence in Dylan’s voice caught his attention. He followed the boy’s instructions to switch to chest thrusts.

“And we were able to clear out the dog food Evan was choking on,” David said.


By the time the EMS team arrived, Evan was breathing normally. Because his oxygen levels were low, they took him to a hospital for a chest X-ray to ensure there was no injury. Indeed, there was none.

However, because it appeared that Evan had aspirated some of the dog food, he was transferred to another hospital, where he was put under anesthesia while doctors removed any remaining particles from his airway.

“When we got to the hospital, Evan was so listless,” Kate said. “He didn’t cry or move because he was so exhausted.”

The next day, Evan was back to normal, except for a bit of a sore throat


Dylan was given the Heartsaver Hero Award in December 2012, and the family shared its story on behalf of the American Heart Association to help promote National CPR/AED Awareness Week in 2013. (It is the first week of June every year.)

Dylan also shared his experience with his Boy Scout troop, emphasizing that anyone can learn to relieve choking and do CPR. He was surprised at how prepared he was to recognize what was happening.

“It was just how they described it,” he said. “Evan couldn’t make noise and was beginning to turn blue. I was so relieved when I realized he was going to be OK.”

Dylan – who is now 12 – remains current with his training, and plans to always remain up to date with it.

“Knowing CPR goes very well with the Boy Scouts’ motto, which is to ‘Be prepared,’” he said. “Actually, I think everyone should know CPR.”

The American Heart Association helped pioneer CPR more than 50 years ago, and continues to refine this lifesaving technique. The organization trains over 14 million people each year in 60-plus countries. Even without formal training, anyone can be a lifesaver by remembering the steps to “Hands-Only CPR” – call 9-1-1, then push hard and fast in the center of the chest, preferably to the beat of the classic disco song, “Stayin’ Alive” until help arrives.

The AHA also recently launched a new online course, Heartsaver Pediatric First Aid CPR AED Part One. The course is designed to meet the training needs of childcare providers across the U.S., but it is also a resource for anyone responsible for the care and safety of children. The course offers critical first aid skills, ranging from how to create a safe environment to life-saving CPR.

The Stanley family has since moved to Portland, Ore., and is more aware of the importance of CPR. The family also is more vigilant about choking risks.

“Brenden and Dylan are very jumpy about dog food and any other food around Evan,” Kate said.

Kate said even as a healthcare provider, her vision of how CPR may be important centered on helping a patient, or perhaps an older person, such as her father.

“I never thought it would be used on a 10-month-old baby,” Kate said. “We’re all just really grateful.”

Evan (blue striped shirt), Brenden (holding dog, Joey), Dylan (brown shirt)


Photos courtesy of the Stanley family


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