Friday, August 29, 2008

Local Boy Saves Life


Long Valley resident, Michael VanHouten, is just like any other 11-year old boy his age. He goes to summer camp, likes to play sports (With Baseball, Soccer, and Basketball being his sports of preference), and loves creatures that go bump in the night.

“My favorite movie is The Lost Boys, Michael says, “I love vampires.”

But Michael differs from most kids his age in one major way—he has saved another person’s life.

On his last day at the YMCA Camp Washington on Schooley's Mountain Road where he’s been going to summer camp for the past five years, Michael got behind his fellow camper and began to push and lift above his belly button. He was doing the Heimlich maneuver.

“He kept telling me in the car ride home, ‘Can you imagine if I hadn’t gone to camp today?’” says his mother, Dorine VanHouten.

Similar to everybody who actually saw Michael perform the Heimlich maneuver, Ms. VanHouten is proud of him for taking the initiative to save the choking boy’s life.

“In his mind, it wasn’t about being a hero, it was about being there to help,” Ms. VanHouten says.

Michael couldn’t have been in a better location at the time of the incident. Sitting at a table far from the camp councilors, Michael noticed something was wrong with his friend when he began pointing at his chest but couldn’t say a word.

“We were eating lunch and having a good time when one of the kids smashed my friend’s desert,” Michael says, “I kept asking if we should tell on him (the kid who was smashing the desert), but all of a sudden, he was silent.”

In that moment, everybody froze up, and the councilors were too far away to quickly rectify the problem. After a second’s hesitation, though, Michael began performing the movement having visually learned it eight years ago when his father had performed it on his younger brother, Matthew, in a diner.

“He (Matthew) started choking on a hot dog and my dad pushed and lifted,” Michael says.

In regards to how his brother feels about Michael being a hero, he just smiles at the idea.

“I think it’s cool that my brother saved his life and I’m proud of him,” Matthew says.
Matthew isn’t the only one proud of Michael. Cindy Smith, a camp councilor who was at the YMCA during the incident, is also grateful that Michael had his head on his shoulders when things started to get chaotic.

“It was wonderful that he knew what to do,” Ms. Smith says, “He got to him first and he saved him.”

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