Wheeling firefighter honored for saving choking child’s life

A Wheeling firefighter/paramedic was publicly lauded Monday for saving a choking girl’s life last month.

With his wife, children and many firefighters present, Ryan Burns received a Life Saving Award and a medal during the evening’s village board meeting. He’ll also receive a ribbon for his dress uniform.

On March 10, Burns was restocking an ambulance with supplies inside Station No. 24, 499 S. Milwaukee Ave., when he heard someone pounding on the station’s back door, Chief Scott Salela said. Burns investigated and found a man holding a 2-year-old girl who wasn’t breathing and had turned blue, Salela said.

Burns grabbed the child and repeatedly hit her back, dislodging a grape that was caught in her throat. With the obstruction gone, the girl resumed breathing.

Other members of the crew on duty that night helped Burns with the child.

They learned the man had run to the station with his daughter from an apartment building next door. He initially had called 911 but then went to the station.

Once the girl was breathing, she was transported to a hospital as a precaution, and she made a full recovery, Salela said.

Burns was nominated for Monday’s award by one of his co-workers, the chief said.

“We are very proud of Ryan and his actions,” Salela said. “Our members spend a lot of time training in both fire and (emergency medical) skills so they will be prepared when their services are needed.”

It wasn’t the first time Burns — an 11-year department veteran — saved a choking child. Last year he performed the Heimlich maneuver on his son Colin, now 12.

“He was choking on a grape as well,” Burns said before Monday’s ceremony, with Colin at his side. “That’s enough for me.”

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