EASLEY — Pickens County Councilman Chris Bowers did a bit more than just attend meetings at the annual South Carolina Association of Counties conference held on Monday in Hilton Head. He also saved a life.
Bowers said he was in the middle of a conversation when he noticed a commotion happening in the room.
“I honestly thought they were just taking photos or something,” he told The Sentinel-Progress. “And then, the guy’s on the floor.”
Wallace Smith, husband to Orangeburg County Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith, was choking.
“When I approached, the man was unresponsive,” said Bowers. “So I jumped in, told them to call 911 and began chest compressions because that’s what you do.”
Bowers said that while the famed Heimlich maneuver is used when a choking victim is awake and upright, once they lose consciousness, that’s no longer the case.
“There’s still air in the lungs and when you’re pumping on a chest, that air is going to be forced out,” he said. “And that’s what happened, out popped a piece of fruit and Wallace — I called him Mr. Wallace — woke up.”
Smith was later transported to the hospital for further evaluation due to other health factors but Bowers said his prognosis was good.
“I spoke to both of them afterwards and they were in good spirits,” he said. “But what I really want to stress is that I didn’t do anything special. Anyone can do this.”
Hands Only CPR — what Bowers used to save Smith’s life — can double or triple a victim’s chances of survival, according to the American Heart Association.
And Bowers, a paramedic and a nurse, insists you don’t have to be either of those things to learn it.
“I’m in a unique situation. My dad started his business (Bowers Emergency Services) when I was 3-years-old,” he said. “I grew up in this. But at a minimum — a minimum — everyone needs to know hands only CPR. Everyone.
“You can go online and order a kit and it’ll come with a video and an inflatable dummy and you can learn this in your living room,” Bowers said. “It’s not about a card. Just knowing it can literally save someone’s life. If you take nothing else away from this, take that.”
Bowers said his experience in Hilton Head was the first time in his career he had ever helped an unresponsive choking victim.
“I hate, hate that it happened but I’m pleased with the outcome,” he said. “Mr. Wallace is OK, the conference itself went great and hopefully some good can come out of this.”
Bowers said he hopes to team up with members from the Orangeburg County Council to promote a statewide initiative for learning hands only CPR.
“It seems like fate,” he said.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.