February 23, 2007

SIUC employee credited with saving boy's life

by Tim Crosby

Gary Lannom

Gary W. Lannom

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A Southern Illinois University Carbondale employee's quick actions saved the life of a young boy having a seizure.

Gary W. Lannom, a building services worker at SIUC, was on duty at Life Science II the evening of Feb. 12 when a woman exited an elevator, walked a bit down the hallway and then cried for help for her child. The 17-month-old boy was not breathing and had turned a purplish color.

"She had the boy in a baby carriage and she was running around saying 'dial 911!'" said Lannom, who has worked at SIUC about two years. "My phone wouldn't get a signal there, so I ran down and picked him up and took off his coat. Two other guys called 911."

Lannom, from Marion, noticed the boy's breathing problem right away and asked the boy's mother if he could be choking on something. The woman, Peng Congyue, a graduate student in plant biology, said he had been eating Cheerios, but Lannom also noticed the boy's jaws were clenched shut.

"I thought he could be having a seizure," said Lannom, who witnessed his share of medical emergencies during his 14 years working as a custodian at an area hospital before moving to SIUC.

Lannom's cardiopulmonary resuscitation training kicked in, and his first move was to try to clear the boy's airway. He began trying to force his thumb through the boy's locked jaws while also pushing on his back and ribcage. After what seemed like an eternity to him, Lannom was able to open the boy's mouth, expelling some liquid and opening his airway.

Soon after, Lannom felt the boy start breathing again, much to everyone's relief.

"I held him a few minutes on my knee and his color came right back and he stared waving his arms around," Lannom said. "He looked like he was fine."

SIUC Department of Public Safety officers arrived about that time, followed by an ambulance, which took the boy to Memorial Hospital of Carbondale where he was treated and released.

Congyue said she is deeply grateful Lannom was there and took action.

"I want to say how much I appreciate what he did," Congyue said. "It was very scary. I thought he was dying right there."

Jay B. Brooks, superintendent of building services at the University, said he is proud of Lannom's actions.

"Mr. Lannom didn't worry about anything but saving this child. It was a very humanitarian and very courageous response," Brooks said. "When you're able to save someone's life, that's just outstanding."

Lannom acknowledged it wasn't a typical evening of building maintenance, but downplayed his role in helping the boy.

"I just did what anybody else would do," Lannom said.