It’s probably among every parent’s worst nightmares: a child stops breathing and time is ticking as first responders are dispatched.
On Aug. 26, Rep. Andy Harris, a freshman Republican from Maryland, was able to assist one of those helpless families, spotting three cars stopped along Route 50 in his home state. Harris didn’t see anyone replacing a flat tire, and there wasn’t any damage to any of the vehicles. But something else caught his eye.
“Before I drove on I saw underneath the car that there was a body lying on the pavement. I saw the flesh – someone without a shirt on,” Harris told ABC News in a phone call Wednesday afternoon. “On the ground was a child, looked to be between 2 and 3 years old, completely pale, limp, not breathing, not responsive.”
The other cars had stopped but occupants were not able to immediately help the boy, who appeared to have stopped breathing during a seizure, Harris said.
“What went through my mind is, ‘We’re just going to have to start a resuscitation and … get everything right and hope to God that it works,’” Harris said. “It’s a high-adrenaline environment experience. That’s all I can tell you. You know, you’re there and you know that if you do things right this will, probably, everything will work out.”
Harris, an anesthesiologist by trade who served in the Naval Reserve Medical Corps at Bethesda Navy Medical Center, successfully resuscitated the child, named Nathan Smith, according to reports.
“The first thing I did was try to open the airway to see if I could get him to breathe and sure enough, I pulled his jaw, did what’s called a jaw thrust, and rolled him on his side a little bit, and within a few seconds after that he took one gasp,” Harris said. “Then, I kept airway open and in another few seconds he took another gasp and over the course of the next few minutes started breathing regularly, and a few minutes after that opened his eyes.”
Harris said that EMTs arrived about 10 minutes after he had pulled over to help the distressed family.
“By then it was pretty clear … that he was resuscitated and was going to be all right,” he said.
The boy’s grandfather praised Harris in a wall post on the congressman’s Facebook page.
“Thank You Andy from the bottom of our hearts for stopping in a storm and helping our family, we thank God that He put you there when they needed help,” Charles Jones wrote in the post, which was first reported by the Hill newspaper. “My wife and I just want to Thank You for what you did for our family, It had nothing to do with politics, or votes, or taxes, or anything like that, it was just people caring for people in need that didn’t know each other, and that in itself says alot about a person and is just Awesome.”
“I’m glad I saw your family on the side of the road and that I was able to get to your grandson to help,” Harris responded on Facebook.
Harris is not the first House Republican to save a life during the 112th Congress. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., an obstetrician by trade who served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to save a man who had gone into cardiac arrest at the Charlotte, N.C., airport last September.
But Harris downplayed any hint of heroism, insisting he was just in the right place at the right time.
“I would hope that anyone, you know someone who may need attention, would do whatever they can,” Harris said. “I’m just glad I could have played a part in getting the boy well again.”