A big sister in Moss Bluff can now add "hero" to her list of accomplishments after saving her little brother from choking to death. Now, the national Safe Sitter program is recognizing 12-year-old Julia Istre for her quick, life-saving actions in an emergency.
In the living room of her family's home, Julia is reuniting with the Safe Sitter instructors that taught her a skill she never imagined she would need in real life. "We practiced the Heimlich maneuver on dolls," said Julia.
In a jam-packed one day course last summer, Julia learned the basics of child care, along with other 11 to 13-year-olds at West Calcasieu-Cameron Hospital. "We teach everything from how to change a diaper to how to do the Heimlich maneuver or the abdominal thrusts," said Safe Sitter instructor, Annette Belcher, "we also teach how to save an infant by doing the back blows and the chest thrusts."
Julia is the oldest of five children. When her dad was at work, and her mom was on the other side of the house, she stepped in when two-year-old Nathan was in distress. "I was in the living room reading a book and the other kids were in my brothers' room playing Legos and some of the kids started running out screaming, 'Nathan's choking, Nathan's choking,'" said Julia.
Nathan had bitten off a big chunk of lip balm and was choking on the wax. "I go in the room and he's just standing at the door and his face is turning colors," said Julia, "and he's holding his hands around his neck."
Without skipping a beat, Julia started doing abdominal thrusts. "I did about five thrusts and the wax started coming out," she said.
Julia's quick-thinking saved Nathan. Her mom, Michelle, was so proud that she wrote a letter to the hospital's Safe Sitter instructors. "Every day from that moment on could be completely different," she said, "our lives could be completely different from that one moment."
When the national Safe Sitter program got wind of Julia's story, she was given their top honor: the National Safe Sitter Hero Award. "I am proud of myself," said Julia.
Julia's experience in saving her little brother has even sparked a passion for a possible future career. "I might want to be a nurse," she said.
The boys and girls that participate in the Safe Sitter course are required to complete a written and skills test. To learn more about the Safe Sitter program and how you can enroll your child in classes near you, click here.