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911 worker awarded for helping save choking boy

Times West Virginian photo by Emily Gallagher Marion County telecommunicator Chris Halpenny holds 10-month-old Waylon Wright after meeting each other for the first time. On Nov. 10, Waylon began choking and his grandmother called 911. Halpenny talked her through helping Waylon until he was safe.
Times West Virginian photo by Emily Gallagher
Marion County telecommunicator Chris Halpenny holds 10-month-old Waylon Wright after meeting each other for the first time. On Nov. 10, Waylon began choking and his grandmother called 911. Halpenny talked her through helping Waylon until he was safe.

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — As 10-month-old Waylon played with his family in Mannington on a Monday afternoon in November, his mother and grandmother realized that he began choking on something.

With the situation getting worse and adrenaline running high, Waylon’s grandmother Betty Jo Wright called 911.

In a frantic voice, Wright explained to the dispatcher that her grandson was choking and she was not sure what to do.

On the other side of the phone was Marion County 911 telecommunicator Chris Halpenny. For about three minutes, Halpenny instructed Wright on how to dislodge the object in Waylon’s airway.

“He kept me focused,” Wright said.

She said she told him during the instructions, “Please don’t leave me. Don’t hang up.” And Halpenny didn’t; he stayed on the phone until Waylon was safe.

“If it wasn’t for (Halpenny), my tomorrow would be empty,” Wright said.

Halpenny said it was in his training that he was taught to give emergency first-aid instructions during events like this one. In his seven months of working at the Marion County 911 Center as a telecommunicator, Halpenny said this call was his first of having to provide instructions when a child was choking.

Halpenny said he didn’t have time to think, and his training kicked in…

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