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Family helps save choking toddler

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Posted at 9:28 PM, Jul 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-21 23:28:37-04

FARMINGTON, Utah -- It’s the simplest moments in life that the Wrencher family of Farmington now consider the most significant, after an ordinary day in April turned into an afternoon they will never forget.

“Your whole life can change in an instant,” Jennifer Wrencher said.

Seated in her living room with her husband, Andrew, she has no trouble recalling every detail of the day she almost lost her youngest son.

“We were busy doing Saturday morning chores and cleaning, and the kids were mostly downstairs,” Wrencher said.

Ten minutes before she was planning on calling all four of them up for lunch, her eldest son started yelling for help.

“My 10 year old suddenly started screaming, in a way I’d never heard him scream before,” Wrencher said.

In the basement, Sam Wrencher had noticed his little brother James swallow a toy he had been playing with.

“He was kind of scared,” Sam said. “His eyes were kind of bugged out really big. So, I started yelling for my mom.”

Jennifer raced down the stairs and found her toddler was struggling to breathe. She instructed Sam to call 911, while she attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

“I said my little brother is unconscious and please help me,” Sam said.

The 10 year old then passed the phone over to his mother, and a dispatcher began to talk her through CPR.

“He was just completely limp and gray, and I thought he was gone. We thought he was gone,”  Jennifer said. “I was just envisioning everything that was never going to happen for him that you envision for your children.”

But within four minutes, paramedics were at the family’s home and attempting to revive James. Jennifer said it was the help of one emergency responder that made the biggest difference.

“He made a really critical decision that we feel like saved James’ life, which was that as he was trying to intubate, he decided to actually shove the small toy that was lodged in there down into his lung,” she said. “And that actually opened up some of his airways, so he could breathe on his own.”

James was taken by medical helicopter to a hospital, where doctors were able to remove the toy, which measured no longer than an inch. Shortly after, the Wrenchers were informed he was breathing, but could have possible brain damage.

“My first thought was, even if he survives, how much brain damage is there going to be?  Is he going to be able to have a normal life?” said James’ father, Andrew Wrencher.

A few hours later, though, his condition began to improve.

“He kind of rolled over and locked eyes with mine,” Jennifer Wrencher said. “And I could see the recognition, and that’s when I knew we’re going to be OK. He knows who his mother is, and we’re going to be OK.”

James was able to return home only days later, where today his family said they have a greater appreciation for the simplest things in life.

“I feel really thankful for all the blessings that we’ve had, that he can still be with us today,” Sam said.