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Nierenhausen in the right place at the right time

by Marlys Kruger

SAND CREEK — Tanner Nierenhausen, a 12-year-old seventh grader at Colfax Middle School, had quite an adventure last week that turned out to be a real life saving event.

Tanner happened to be camping with his family at the Myron Park Campground in Sand Creek and was playing cards in the camper but decided to go outside for awhile. He began playing with his neighbor Brenda Espeseth’s dog and decided to bring the dog back to her. After entering her camper, he noticed something was wrong with her.

“She was holding her throat and gasping so I asked her if she was choking,” Tanner said. “She shook her head yes so I knew I had to help her.”

He did just that as he quickly moved behind her and performed the Heimlich Maneuver several times, dislodging the piece of donut in her throat, thus allowing her to breathe again. After a few seconds, Brenda, age 53 and a widow who lives by herself, seemed to be okay—and very thankful for Tanner dropping by.

“I thought this was going to be it,” she said. “It was the most horrible feeling (choking). But Tanner just swung into action. Most kids would have run out and not known what to do. But Tanner did not hesitate. It’s pretty awesome for a 12-year-old to respond like that. I couldn’t call for help and certainly could not have walked anywhere for help. He was in the right place at the right time and I am grateful for that,” she added.

Tanner learned the Heimlich Maneuver (also known as abdominal thrusts) while having to tag along with his mom Bonnie, a Girl Scout leader, who was teaching some basic first aid at one of the meetings.

“I didn’t realize he was paying attention that close,” Bonnie said. “I asked him after he saved Brenda how he knew what to do and he said he learned it from me at the Girl Scout meeting. I am certainly glad he was listening!”

According to Tanner, they have only known Brenda about two months but he and his family have become pretty good friends in that time. Her camper is somewhat secluded and there is no telling what would have happened if Tanner hadn’t come along when he did.

When asked if he was nervous or afraid when he jumped to help her, a very nonchalant Tanner replied:  “Not really. I didn’t think about it, I just did it. It wasn’t that hard to do and I figured no one else was there so I had to help her. I’m glad I was there and everything worked out,” he added.

Bonnie and Brenda both want to emphasize how important it is for everyone to know what to do in an emergency like this.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are or what size you are,” Bonnie said. “Tanner is not a very big kid but just knowing the basic steps and staying calm enough to perform them can save a life and Tanner proved it,” she said.