By Merv Brokke (AMRDEC)October 2, 2008
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - The cafeteria's dining area was almost empty with only a few people going through their normal lunch routine. The lunch crowd was just starting to move through the serving line; making their selections for the midday meal. Then, all of a sudden, one person called for help, another administered first aid, and a third person was rescued-returning to normal duties unharmed.
Martha Dillard, a Phoenix Services employee, who is always one of the first lunchtime diners in the cafeteria, saw the man choking and called for help.
"I came in as usual at 1100 for lunch and as I went to turn around to go over there where Molly was, I saw this man choking. The way he was acting, gagging, holding onto the back of the chair; I thought he was dying.
"I immediately hollered for Molly," said Dillard.
Molly Ponder is the Cafeteria Manager.
"She didn't hear me so I hollered real loud the next time to get her attention. I said 'the man is choking,'" said Dillard.
Ponder was recently trained and certified in Standard First Aid, Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation, and Automated External Defibrillator-Adult responder.
"I hollered for Molly because I knew she had had the training and she is the manager of the restaurant," said Dillard
When an emergency occurs time is critical, first responders have to be called and first aid has to be administered.
"When you see something like that you yell out 'Call 911' and grab the person who is certified; which Martha did correctly.
"She grabbed Molly, who just took the training a couple of sessions ago, and Molly did what she had to do-let the people wait for their lunch and go help save a life," said Ken Stacy, Safety Officer for the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center.
A man was choking in her cafeteria, a woman was calling for her and pointing to the victim-Ponder took action.
"I got up from the register and left all the people in line and just ran to him.
"First, I went to him and I said 'Can I help you; I am trained,' but he couldn't talk to me because he was gasping for air," said Ponder.
Ponder wrapped her arms around the victim and administered the Heimlich Maneuver to dislodge the foreign object that was causing him to choke.
"I did what I knew I had to do," said Ponder.
Dillard was there through it all and saw her friend save a person's life.
"She did it; it took a few minutes and he was alright," said Dillard.
Heimlich Maneuver training is a part of the overall AMRDEC AED training and certification program but classroom and actual use during an emergency can be very different and anxiety-filled.
"I never thought I would have to use it. When we practiced it in the CPR class, I never thought I would ever have to do anything like that but I was glad that I was able to do what I did yesterday," said Ponder.
Having seen her friend act so heroically gave Dillard a very close and personal reason to reconsider taking first aid and CPR training herself.
"I had thought about taking the training because it came in handy-it saved that man's life. It really scared me. I was a nervous wreck there for a few minutes."
Ponder's first concern is with her customers and she takes safety very seriously.
"After the AED was installed in the cafeteria I knew that somebody has got to be in the cafeteria who knows how to use it. I can't always call on someone when something happens down here because it's going to take them a while to get here.
"I insisted that I take the Red Cross training and he [Ken Stacy] set me up to take the training," said Ponder.
The AED training and certification at AMRDEC has been ongoing for almost a year.
"It has been a great success story here for all of us. You can walk into any AMRDEC facility on Redstone and feel confident that there is someone around who can help.
"The Madison County Chapter of the American Red Cross has conducted our training since October of last year and they have done an incredible job. We have trained more than 200 employees and we need a lot more people to go through the training," said Stacy.
Ponder said she was a nervous wreck the whole day following the incident but that the training was worthwhile.
"I advise anyone and everyone to have the training. I just told one of my employees today that the next class that they have he will be in that class, because somebody when I'm not here somebody else needs to be here who knows CPR."