2 minute readHealth & Safety

Red Cross Employee Uses First Aid Training to Help Save Son’s Life

Shabazz Torres with his son, Elijah Torres (3) and his mother-in-law, Diana Pastula.

During Red Cross Month we celebrate heroes who use their Red Cross training to assist others in an emergency. Red Cross Training Services employee, Shabazz Torres, is a Senior Digital Marketing Analyst whose work on the Red Cross website helps individuals find lifesaving training online and in their local communities. Shabazz never thought that his employment with the Red Cross would have such a monumental impact on his life.

A Gift to be Thankful For

On December 6, 2017, Shabazz received workplace training in American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED along with the rest of his team.

“In the back of my head I remember sitting there [in First Aid/CPR/AED class] like ‘Thanks but, I’m probably never going to need this. And lo and behold, I was actually in a situation where I had to use the skills I was taught to help save my son’s life,” said Shabazz.

On September 3, 2018, Shabazz was getting ready to leave for work like any other day. His three-year-old son, Elijah, was eating breakfast with his grandmother, Diana Pastula, as he headed for the door. Suddenly, a commotion came from the kitchen and Shabazz heard Diana calling for him. Shabazz threw down his work bag and immediately ran back to the kitchen where he found Elijah choking on his breakfast and Diana performing abdominal thrusts to help dislodge the food. Shabazz took hold of his son and started abdominal thrusts but, was unable to clear his son’s airway. Quickly, Shabazz turned Elijah over and started back blows. After a few blows the obstructed food fell to the floor and his son let out an audible cry.

“It ended up being a gift. It was in the back of my head somewhere – the instruction I received kicked in. I did it subconsciously, almost as if it was second nature to me just because I took the course through the Red Cross. It really made a difference that day,” said Shabazz.

Honored with Red Cross Lifesaving Awards

On February 28, 2019, Shabazz and Diana were presented with Red Cross Lifesaving Awards for their brave response to Elijah’s choking emergency. Shabazz received the Certificate of Merit, awarded to an individual who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. Diana was awarded the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action, given to individuals who step up in an emergency and help save or sustain a life.

A Powerful Message

Based on his own experience, Shabazz encourages everyone, especially parents, to learn First Aid/CPR skills.

“For any parent it’s worth its weight in gold because you never know when you’ll need it, and you’ll be prepared” said Shabazz.

Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.

If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit LifesavingAwards.org to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.

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  1. This story had a very awarding outcome for many. Much is the courage to not panic in such a frightening situation.
    About 5 years ago I was living in Quebec with my ex fiancee… I had already finished my petit-dejeuner (aka breakfast) and was on the sofa watching the news… my exstarted coughing and choaking and his face went red blueish then pasty white within seconds he stood up to go to the restroom and before he even made it through the door he stopped and blacked out. I dont think I mentioned him being at least 275 lbs and myself 115 lbs. I then watched him start to fall like a very large freshly cut tree. I wasnt fast enough to make it to him to cushion his fall…. he fell soo fast our glass dining room table was glass…only able to take a few steps his head shatered the table and his head also hit the cast iron table support.
    Much appreciated my dearly departed and most fav uncle, a very positive loving dad #2; my UNCLE BILL. He is my biggest HERO, a highly decorated ranking ICON within the community! captain of the VFD in Vancouver now when he found out i was with child he signed me up for the first three levels of first aide…as he soo heavily and nn stop persuaded me to complete. He wouldnt take no for an answer… and thought after level 1 was completed i would be released from his worriesand immediately started chest pumps and within what seemed like eternity.i was able to dislodge the pesky morcal and he immediately regained consciousness not only was he choaking on food.. we later learned he had a mild stroke as well. Having taken the courses prepared me, kept me focused and soo calm and with thw confidence i needed to not be shy. I would like to Congratulate all those that have taken this course. becquse its ue U NEVER KNOW and give my deepest Gratitude for the Red Cross Society. U dont have any First Aid…. get ur buts in there