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A real lifesaver

Durham Red Cross honours life-saving effort

Red Cross award

Taryn Orava recently received the Rescuers Award from the Durham Region branch of the Canadian Red Cross for saving the life of a choking man at a wedding she was attending.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It’s the last thing anyone wants to see, especially at a wedding, but as Taryn Orava glanced across the hall, filled with sharply dressed friends and with the best man giving his speech from the microphone, she noticed a man in distress.

“I saw a man across the hall who was choking and someone was trying to help him by doing abdominal thrusts on him and it wasn’t working,” Orava tells The Express.

Orava rushed across the hall in her high heels and dress and was able to help the man to the floor as he lost consciousness.

“He was grey and definitely not breathing anymore, so I did 30 chest compressions and I was able to clear his airway,” Orava recalls.

It was with skilled hands and mind that Orava was able to save the man’s life that day. The man, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was not actually choking on a piece of food, but experiencing a violent tremor that can make it hard to swallow.

Orava started first aid training when she was 13 before becoming a lifeguard (in 2006 she would receive an award for her lifesaving efforts for the first time).

Since that time, Orava has taught more than 100 first aid classes through the Red Cross.

“For myself, it’s good practice and sharing my knowledge with other people,” she says.

Along with teaching first aid, Orava is a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo, as well as working as a researcher with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital and as a consultant in a health evaluations firm.

Holding her rescuer’s award, which she was honoured with at the Durham Region branch of the Red Cross on Sept. 11, Orava said it was an honour to be recognized.

She says she hopes everyone will learn the importance of first aid training.

“We kind of want everyone to take all precautions and prevention…you can never know it’s going to happen in your life, so I think having the knowledge and skills to be able to be comfortable enough to deliver first aid is why we teach it,” she says. “So it feels really nice to see it come full circle.”