Lifesaving tactics help GCU transfer student save life, stay in school
By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
After nearly quitting in his first semester at Grand Canyon University this fall, Craig Becker used the skills he learned at GCU to save a man from possibly choking to death.
The CPR first aid certification techniques he learned at a University athletic training camp last June kept him interested, although he had his doubts about completing his undergraduate degree.Becker, 23, arrived at GCU last summer from Farmingdale State College on his native Long Island, N.Y., to enroll in the athletic training program. Last week, near the end of his seven-hour shift as a server at The Melting Pot fondue restaurant in Scottsdale, Becker noticed a male customer rushing from the dining area through the lobby to the restroom with a napkin over his mouth — coughing and wheezing loudly, followed by his wife and parents.
Becker informed him of his CPR certification and began to perform abdominal thrusts and “back blows” — techniques of the traditional Heimlich maneuver to prevent suffocation and open blocked airways.
As Becker worked to dislodge the steak for nearly 10 minutes, the choking man went limp in his arms, comatose and unconscious, until a chunk of meat hurled into the sink. The man regained his strength and began coughing. Then, after a quick checkup with paramedics, he finished his meal with his family.
“When it happened, everyone was in panic mode and I just tried to keep a level head, use what I learned and make sure this guy would be able to walk out of there with his family,” said Becker, who admitted that he didn’t sleep well that night.
“It was the first time I had to use my certification skills, and I lost so much sleep that night thinking about what happened,” Becker said. “Even with (sleeplessness), it was just a good feeling knowing that I was able to help him and that if I wasn’t there, there might have been a different outcome.”
Becker said relief washed over him as his coworkers welcomed him with “attaboys” and congratulatory pats on the back as he stepped back into the lobby. But all he could think about was leaving to clear his head. He asked his manager for the rest of the night off and left with his roommate an hour later.
The resuscitated man and his family were given the meal for free by the restaurant and offered Becker a cash reward. Becker graciously declined the offer.
The next morning, Becker visited the athletic training room on the lower level of the Student Recreation Center to thank GCU’s staff of athletic trainers, crediting them for helping him understand how to save a life.
Travis Armstrong, GCU’s associate head athletic trainer, was the only trainer in the office at the time. He recognized Becker from the summer camp and listened to Becker’s tale. Armstrong said he became emotional when he heard that Becker used the skills he learned at a GCU camp.
“I’ve had students come back and tell me that they saw someone have a seizure at a ballpark after we talked about it in class or something like that, but I’ve never had anyone come back with quite as dramatic a situation as his,” said Armstrong, a GCU alumnus who has served in his position for three years. He was one of the staff members who certified Becker last summer.
“What he did is really incredible,” Armstrong said. “You hope that they never have to be in a situation like that, but I’m thankful he was able to fall back on the skills he learned and do what had to be done.”
Becker said he hopes to complete the GCU athletic training program and then earn a degree in physical therapy so he can open his own practice or serve as an athletic trainer for a college or pro football team. He said he will be ready to use his skills if another situation arises.
“I am still kind of in shock, but I’m glad I was there when it happened,” Becker said. “I hope it never happens again, but I’ll be ready if it does.”
Contact Cooper Nelson at 639.7511 or [email protected].