Follow the training; save a life

James Bird

James Bird works as a sales engineer. He also serves as a part-time EMT to support volunteer organizations and wilderness events. And on November 25, 2019, James helped save the life of a woman who was choking at the Westfield Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, CA. 

Earlier in the evening, James met a friend for dinner in the food court at the mall. They parted ways long enough to place their respective orders, and as James waited for his food, a commotion caught his eye.

“I turned and saw what I thought was a security guard forcefully removing a woman from the food court, and it seemed odd,” he says. “But then I had a realization that he was attempting to do abdominal thrusts…. the problem was the way he was administering the thrusts. I thought, ‘man, that is really ineffective; someone needs to go over there and help him.’ A moment later, I think, ‘oh my goodness, that’s me.’”

James rushed over, identified himself as an off-duty EMT, and then offered to step in. The woman lost consciousness, and James lowered her to the ground, continuing the thrusts while she lay supine. Her face began to turn blue, and James checked her pulse to find it weakening. As James placed his hands on her chest to begin compressions, the woman grabbed his wrist, indicating a return of consciousness. The color came back into her face, and she began to spit up. James continued to monitor the woman’s airway until EMS arrived on the scene. 

Once EMS arrived, James stepped back and then left to retrieve his dinner. He joined his friend at the table, sweaty and out of breath. His friend, Adrian, oblivious, had been facing the other way the entire time of the incident. Adrian sat stunned as James recounted the scene. James glanced toward the woman, now surrounded by police and firefighters, and noticed a whole audience of mallgoers around him listening to the story. Finally, one of the security guards trotted over to retrieve James’ info. 

“Her son was standing there and observing,” James says. “My thoughts go back to the son… can you imagine going holiday shopping and having this happen? I heard that the family reflected on how lucky they were that someone was there to help them.”

James is the Health Services Officer of Squadron 80 of the California Wing, Civil Air Patrol. His commander caught wind of the event, confirmed the incident’s details, and honored James at a Civil Air Patrol meeting.

It so happens that over the past year, James has been in contact with the American Red Cross to certify all members of his wing in basic lifesaving skills and to expand wilderness survival training certification. Knowing this connection, his friend, Adrian, put two and two together and nominated James for a lifesaving award through the Red Cross. Adrian knew that such recognition could help cross-pollinate interest in James’ work with the Civil Air Patrol.

Thus, on Thursday, September 17, Ken Toren, Chief Executive Officer, Red Cross Silicon Valley, presented James with the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Action.

“This is a documented event that puts together real-life training that helped save somebody as a part of our organizational relationship with the Red Cross,” says James. “That family gets to talk about the event later – and I will make sure to that pass on with anyone who comes through classes or programs I set up in the future.”

Thank you for your service, James, and congrats on well-deserved recognition!