Senior “happy to meet the man who brought me back”

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Dawn-Euphemia firefighter Jeff Wernham stepped in to do CPR as Chuck Skipper blacked out

At 95, Chuck Skipper says he has a lot of life to live yet and he wanted to thank the man that allowed him to do it.

The Merlin man just about choked to death but was saved by a firefighter out with his wife.

So on Monday, during the Dawn-Euphemia Township council meeting, Skipper and his family sneaked into the Florence Community Centre and waited for Mayor Al Broad to bring in Jeff Wernham.

Wernham and his wife, Amber, were at the Central in Chatham on Good Friday around 5 pm when they noticed a commotion at a nearby table.

Skipper, who is from Merlin and was there celebrating Easter with his family. He started choking after a chunk or two of beef lodged in his throat.

“My husband and I were sitting across the table from my dad and my husband first noticed that he was having difficulty,” Skipper’s daughter Heather Wilcox tells The Independent. “So we’re asking him if he’s okay. And he was doing this,” she said moving her hand across her throat – the signal people use when they can’t breathe.

Wilcox’s husband, Tim, went behind Skipper to try the Heimlich manoeuver as he had in the past. Skipper lost consciousness and the family laid him on the floor. That’s when Amber told Wernham he should help. As a volunteer firefighter, Wernham had spent hours in training, including for CPR.

“Jeff immediately started doing the Heimlich and trying to get it out. Then dad was blue so they start doing CPR,” says Wilcox who is from Petrolia.

“That was awful because his pulse was gone.”

Working together, Wernham and Tim Wilcox did three rounds of CPR and Skipper was revived. By the time the paramedics arrived, Skipper was talking saying he couldn’t go to the hospital because he had to cut the grass tomorrow. 

Skipper remembers nothing of that.  “I choked up and passed out on the floor and that’s when the fireman helped me,” he says. 

“I ended up in the hospital for three days but I didn’t remember anything.”

In the chaotic situation, Skipper’s family didn’t think to get Wernham’s full name. Using social media and contacting Mayor Broad, the family was able to arrange a public thank you during a council meeting Monday.

Wernham says it is good to know that Skipper – who wants to live to be at least 100 – is doing well.

The firefighter has done CPR six times in his life. Skipper is the first to live. “A lot of times when you’re called to a scene, you don’t know the people…A lot of times, you don’t know the ultimate outcome for them,” says Wernham. “It’s really nice to see the message you get from his daughter a couple of days later that he wants to go out and cut the lawn…that he’s back to his normal lifestyle.” Wernham says being at the restaurant and being able to intervene early was the key to saving Skipper’s life. 

It was a series of small changes that led the Wernham’s to be there at the same time. The Skippers originally planned to go to London for dinner. The Wernhams wanted a later reservation. Instead, the timing worked out that they were all together and a life was saved. 

And Skipper just wanted to say thank you. “I’m happy to meet the man who brought me back.”