Dresden teen saves coworker

Posted:  Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 5:00pm

A series of what turned out to be fortunate events put Helen Call, 19, of Dresden in a position to help a choking co-worker May 6.

The University of Maine freshman wasn't looking for recognition afterward. But when her mother heard about it, a proud Nancy Call contacted a Wiscasset Newspaper reporter who's been chronicling the Blinn Hill Road family's other good deeds for years. The Calls have twice hosted a young Haitian heart patient, and Helen Call has done missionary work in the Dominican Republic.

When reached May 6, Helen Call agreed to recount what happened that morning, as an example of what she said is God putting someone where and when they're needed.

The 2012 Hall-Dale High School graduate works at the UMO dining hall where her first aid training paid off Monday. But how she wound up being there at that time begins with the fact that it was finals week. She had signed up weeks ahead for Sunday and Monday shifts to get them out of the way and then focus on studying.

When she recently noticed that someone had erased her name for the Monday shift and put theirs instead, Call changed it back to her name, in pen.

“I was a little annoyed,” she said.

On Sunday night, she learned she wasn't required to work two shifts that week, just one, so Sunday would have been enough. But it was too late to cancel. “So I decided to suck it up and work,” she said.

When she started work Monday, she was doing her favorite job with the food service: washing dishes. Then a co-worker on the cash register asked her to trade. Call said she initially declined because she detests register duty.

But a half-hour later, she changed her mind and traded. “I didn't want to do dishes today. I don't know why,” she said.

Had she stayed in the other room where the dishes are washed, she would have taken an earlier break and would not have heard anything, she said.

But she was just going on break from the register when someone called out, “He's choking,” Call said. She told someone to call 911 then began the Heimlich maneuver on the man in trouble.

She had used the maneuver on herself once when she was choking, but her only other experiences were in training; on the man she helped Monday, she wasn't sure how many compressions it took to free the food blockage. More than four times, she said.

The man, a co-worker at the food service and roughly 10 years her senior, thanked her and they hugged, Call said.

“I was really shaking because it was scary,” she said of the choking incident. An ambulance crew came but the man stayed and continued his shift, she said.

“I give all the glory to God,” she said of the incident's good outcome.

Referring to the circumstances that led her to be able to help the man, she said, “I'm really thankful that everything lined up perfectly. I don't believe in coincidences,” she added.

No one else nearby at the time was trained in the Heimlich maneuver, she said. The man was particularly fortunate Call was there: She serves as an attendant on UMO's University Volunteer Ambulance Corps (UVAC).

Next fall, she plans to go for her emergency medical technician license.

Call plans to major in biology, then go on to medical school and become a pediatrician. She is currently ranked seventh in the freshman class of about 500, her mother said.

Nancy Call said although Monday's events were unexpected, her daughter's quick action to help someone doesn't surprise her.

“She's level-headed,” Call said. “I'm so proud of her. She was the right girl in the right place at the right time.”

Susan Johns can be reached at 207-844-4633 or sjohns@wiscassetnewspaper.com.