Above, Beyond: Marines save girl's life

25 Jun 2002 | Sgt. Brian J. Griffin

Marines train everyday for situations they could encounter whether in the field or in everyday life. During a recent port visit in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, June 21-25, two members of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (rein), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), came upon a situation where they had to put some training to use. While on liberty in Waikiki, Hawaii, First Lieutenants Brad Ellis, low altitude air defense platoon commander, and Mike McCoy, air traffic control team officer-in-charge, were having dinner at an area restaurant, June 22 after returning from field training earlier that day. The two Marines had no clue they would be handed the responsibility of saving the life of a Japanese child."We were just sitting there eating dinner and we heard this commotion," said Ellis, a Knoxville, Tenn., native. "I turned around and at the table directly behind us there was this family: a mother, father and their two kids. The mother was screaming in Japanese and her little girl was lying on the ground."We stood up and went over toward them and the mother was trying to breath into the girl's mouth," Ellis said. "But you could tell the girl, who wasn't any older than three, was choking." McCoy, a Salt Lake City native, was right by Ellis's side and observed the same situation."Everyone just gathered around. They were watching and looking, but nobody in the restaurant was doing anything," McCoy said.Realizing the parents could not help their child, the two friends took charge of the situation and began administering life saving steps."All I could think about was that I was going to see this little girl die. I wasn't going to let that happen," Ellis said.The girl's skin was turning blue and her eyes were rolled back in her head, signs she was choking, Ellis said. But the mother was trying to give the girl mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which was not helping to clear the girl's airway. "I tried to tell the mother to stop breathing into the little girl's mouth because she was choking. But the mother couldn't understand me--she didn't speak any English--and didn't know what to do," Ellis said.Working against a language barrier and a mother panicking to save her child, Ellis began to perform a modified Heimlich maneuver on the diaphragm of the girl, trying to push the obstruction from her throat.Meanwhile, McCoy signaled to the parents that the little girl was choking by giving the international choking symbol--wrapping both hands around his throat indicating an inability to breath."Finally we got the mother moved away," Ellis said. "I was able to perform a finger sweep, like they taught us during Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation training during our pre-deployment workups."I did the first sweep and felt something. I went back for a second sweep, deeper this time, and hit her gag reflex. She coughed the food up and her skin color came back almost immediately," he said.Ellis' selfless act didn't come without sacrifice, though. "She bit the heck out of my finger," Ellis said. "But we were just swept with relief when she started breathing again."Within minutes of Ellis and McCoy saving the child's life, paramedics arrived on scene and continued to care for the girl. Even with the language barrier between the two Marines and the Japanese family, a common bond was formed and they parted ways with the mother saying the two English words she knew, "thank-you."Ellis and McCoy are both currently deployed to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf regions aboard the USS Belleau Wood.

Marine Corps News

Colonel James W. Lively
Commanding Officer

Colonel Lively is a native of Dallas, Texas. He received his commission in 1996 through the Platoon Leaders Course program after graduating from Texas A&M University with a BA in Psychology.

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Lieutenant Col. Le E. Nolan
Executive Officer

Lieutenant Colonel Nolan is a 2001 graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and received his commission through Officer Candidate Class 180. After completing flight training as a CH-53E pilot, he reported to HMH-361 in MCAS Miramar.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.

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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit