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Elaine Mastin, right, gets a hug from Barbara Stewart after performing the Heimlich Maneuver to save her life.



When Elaine Mastin took a CPR class in December, she thought she was preparing herself for something that would never happen. She didn’t expect to use her newfound skills to save the life of a coworker less than four months later.

But that’s what happened on March 31, when Mastin, a cardiology technician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, sat down for lunch in the Glennon Café with coworker Barbara Stewart, a transcriptionist in the Cardiology Department.

Stewart knew something was wrong as soon as she swallowed her first bite.

“When I took that first bite, I felt it didn’t go down,” Stewart said. “Elaine realized something was wrong immediately and asked me, ‘Are you okay?’” I shook my head no and took a drink of tea.”

Stewart tried to suck in some air and knew she was in trouble: She couldn’t breathe or speak. That’s when Mastin sprung into action to perform the Heimlich Maneuver.

“Elaine came right behind me and started doing the Heimlich,” Stewart said. “It took a few tries but she finally got it out of there and I could breathe again. I started crying. Elaine ran to get me some water and I didn’t know it at the time, but she was crying too. Then when she came back with the big cup of water, we cried together.”

When she took the CPR class, Mastin thought it would be hard to actually use those skills in a real-life situation. But she was able to keep her cool and act quickly.

“Afterwards, I was surprised,” Mastin said. “But when it comes to saving somebody’s life, you don’t have time to think. You just do it.”

Stewart is grateful that she did.

“I just thank God that Elaine didn’t panic,” Stewart said.

Mastin was surprised at work Thursday with the “Treasure Chest” recognition from Human Resources and her Cardiology team. Managers and leaders can nominate their employees for this recognition. When recognized, the employee receives a choice of gift cards from Starbucks, AMC Theatres, St. Louis Bread Company, the Toy Box and the Glennon Café. Employees also receive the nomination that was written about them.

Stewart and the Cardiology Team also presented balloons and flowers to Mastin, who Stewart describes as “my friend, my coworker, my angel.”

“I would have done the same thing for anyone else,” Mastin said, wiping away tears.

Now the two can smile and joke about what happened—and Mastin can even jokingly suggest new menus for Stewart.

“After it happened, I sat her down and said ‘I’m getting you mashed potatoes and water and that’s it,” Mastin said with a laugh.

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