Boy Scout Ryan Gonzalez of San Marino Troop 355 is being considered for a lifesaving award from Boy Scouts of America.
The 15-year-old from Pasadena successfully administered the Heimlich maneuver on a man who was choking on Feb. 28 at approximately noon.
Ryan said he was walking with his friend back from the farmer’s market at Pasadena High School and observed a man struggling and holding his stomach across Paloma Street. He said he wasn’t sure what was going on and the man murmured, “Heimlich.”
“I handed my phone to my friend and said ‘Call 911’,” Ryan said. “It all happened so fast. I went behind him and did about a dozen pumps. Finally, he was able to dislodge whatever it was that was in his throat.”
He said his friend did have some trouble using his phone to call 911; however, the man ended up not needing paramedics and went to the farmer’s market with his two young daughters.
Ryan’s father, Scott Gonzalez, said he was sitting in his vehicle nearby and observed Ryan talking to the man and shaking his hand, but didn’t see what happened prior to that. He said his son asked him if we saw what had occurred.
Scott Gonzalez remembered, “He said, ‘Dad, my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. I just gave this gentleman the Heimlich maneuver and it cleared his passageway.’ I was just amazed and obviously very proud.”
Ryan learned the Heimlich maneuver approximately two years ago when he earned his First Aid Merit Badge at Camp Trask. It was one of three merit badges he acquired there that are required to become an Eagle Scout.
“Everything I learned from Boy Scouts sticks with me because you have to repeat it,” Ryan said. He explained that every time a Boy Scout makes a rank advancement, he’s tested on previous skills that he’s learned.
Both of Troop 355’s Scoutmasters Greg Geraci and Ron Garretson, as well as Ryan’s father, credit this repetition as being an important part of a Boy Scout’s knowledge.
“You never know how a person is going to act under pressure,” Geraci said. “It sounds like, when he was needed, he acted diligently and jumped into action to save the man’s life.”
“This is what scouting is all about,” Garretson said. “So many parents say that if they got into trouble, they would want to be with a Boy Scout.”
“Ryan Gonzalez displayed tremendous courage when faced with a crisis situation,” Boy Scouts Rose Bowl District Executive Kyle Galloway said. “What Ryan has learned from the scouting program shows the importance and influence scouting has on a young man. The Greater Los Angeles Area Council and Rose Bowl District are honored to have dedicated leaders to teach our young scouters life skills they will embrace for the remainder of their life. The Rose Bowl District is very proud to have Ryan Gonzalez, and we wish him much success in his future endeavors.”
Garretson recalled the story of when Boy Scout Founder Robert Baden-Powell was asked about the Boy Scout motto and said, “Be prepared for what?” He said Baden-Powell replied, “Be prepared for anything.” Garretson said Ryan was prepared for anything that day.
Garretson himself just utilized the Heimlich maneuver last year to save someone’s life.
Ryan and the man he saved met up again last week as they had a common friend.
“He was very grateful,” Ryan said. “It was good seeing him again.”
He said he recommends everyone learn first aid, whether they’re in Boy Scouts or not.
Ryan is a freshman at St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge.