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Deputy saves choking baby

COVINGTON - Some things you never forget, and that was a good thing for an 11-month-old infant who benefited from some life-saving techniques learned long ago by Newton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Sgt. Tommy Thomason.

Thomason was in the right place at the right time when he heard a call about 10 p.m. Thursday of a baby choking on Maple Trace. He was patrolling a nearby area and went to the scene.

"I arrived ... and was met at the front door by a female ... holding an infant face down across her arms. She was panicked and said, 'My baby is choking on a hair barrette!'" he said in an NCSO incident report.

Thomason said the child was in obvious respiratory distress and barely breathing.

"I laid her across my arm and bumped her twice on the back between her shoulder blades, but the object remained lodged in her throat," he said, adding that she continued to wheeze and struggle to breathe.

"Using the index finger on my left hand, I inserted it into her mouth to try to locate and remove the object but discovered the barrette was deep into her throat and I could only touch the very tip of it," he said. "The infant was attempting to breathe and cry but was not doing either very well and her body was for the most part limp."

With precious seconds flying by, Thomason tried again to reach the barrette and was finally able to touch it with the tip of his finger, moving it upward.

"My second attempt to pull the object up managed to get it up farther, but at the same time, it became wedged crossways in her throat," he said. "A small amount of blood was draining from her mouth, and I felt it was imperative to get the object out quickly. With one more pull, I was able to get the barrette free and removed from her mouth and the child immediately began to cry loudly and breathe normally."

Emergency medical services arrived about five minutes later and the child was handed over to them for a check. They reported the infant's vital signs were all within normal range. She was transported to Newton Medical Center to be checked out to make sure she didn't have any serious injuries to her throat, the report stated.

Thomason said the mother told him she had undressed the baby for her bath and while she was drawing the bath water, the child took the barrette from her hair and placed it in her mouth.

"She heard the infant gagging and when she checked, she could see the barrette lodged in the back of the infant's throat. She tried to remove it, couldn't and dialed 911," the report states.

The barrette was plastic and measured about 11/2 inches long.

NCSO Lt. Tyrone Oliver said Thomason's lifesaving efforts were based on training he received many years ago as a former emergency medical technician. He has been with the NCSO for more than 30 years, Oliver said.

"He is well-trained on first response, and that training is a tool we use to help out EMS," Oliver said.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.