Published: Jan 17, 2013 02:22 PM
Modified: Jan 19, 2013 04:22 PM
CARY - First, Frank Jablonski cleared his throat at his birthday dinner. Then he made an unnatural sound, a disturbing guttural noise. Then he turned blue.
“I was completely panicked,” recalled his wife, Emily Jablonski. She started hitting at his torso, gripped by terror. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said.
The 44-year-old man was going to choke on a piece of sesame chicken in his own kitchen, on his birthday and his wedding anniversary, in front of his three children. And then Claire took charge.
“I don’t even remember what I was saying. I could just feel my adrenaline,” the 16-year-old recalled.
In fact, she was telling her mother to call emergency services. And she was getting behind her father, pushing her hands up into his navel in a Heimlich abdominal thrust that leaped back into her consciousness from a babysitting CPR course by the Red Cross.
At the phone, her mother was unsure an ambulance would arrive on time. But before she could dial three digits, the patriarch was coughing and sputtering.
That’s when “I knew the airway blockage was gone,” Claire Jablonski recalled of the Dec. 11 incident, which happened when both father and daughter were stuck home sick.
It took a few minutes for Frank Jablonski, a welder and community college instructor, to return to his senses.
“ I said ’Boy, your daughter’s something else,’ and he said ’I thought you did it,” Emily Jablonski recalled.
Claire isn’t cocky about the incident, but saving her father’s life has instilled her with new confidence that she’ll make a good doctor or nurse.
She’s already taking medical science classes at Holly Springs High School, where she’s a junior, but she wasn’t sure how she’d react to a life-or-death situation.
“I was always kind of nervous. If something like that were to happen, if I was in a hospital - I felt like I’d just kind of freeze up,” said the cheerleader and defensive lacrosse player. She tries not to think about what could have happened if she hadn’t cleared her father’s throat.
Her mother put it this way: Claire’s calm reaction last month could be a sign that medicine’s the right field for her.
Since that fateful dinner, the Jablonskis have read up on how to prevent choking in any situation. And they haven’t had Chinese food since.