Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Tiffany Blake’s knight arrived in a police uniform instead of shining armor and came on a brown police horse named Bandit instead of a white stallion. But like any true rescuer, Trenton Officer John Harbourt arrived just in time to save her 11-month-old daughter’s life.
Harbourt successfully performed a back blow on Nevaeh Croweli last Wednesday afternoon when the infant choked on a carrot during a Thanksgiving party inside Capital Child Care Center, where Blake was volunteering.
After several people tried unsuccessfully to clear Nevaeh’s airway, Harbourt was the calm, reassuring presence who took the limp girl from her mother’s grasp and, in one swift back blow, had the little girl breathing again.
“He is my knight, my hero,” Blake said yesterday outside Trenton Police Headquarters, where the mom and Harbourt were reunited.
“I feel like saying ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough,” Blake, a Morrisville, Pa., resident, said after Harbourt arrived at the media event much like he did last Wednesday, on Bandit.
“She looks a lot better than the last time I saw her,” said Harbourt, as Nevaeh played with television reporters’ microphones and her mother retold the harrowing incident, something she said she never wants any parent to go through.
Blake said she was not right next to her daughter when she started choking on a hard carrot that her daughter had swiped from another child’s plate at the center on West Front Street downtown.
When Blake rushed to Nevaeh — heaven spelled backward — her daughter was silent, her eyes were rolling back in her head and her arms dropped by her side, said the emotional mother. “It’s every parent’s nightmare and your instinct is to panic,” she said.
But Blake was concentrating on her daughter, trying herself to dislodge the obstruction. Someone dialed 911 and when Trenton dispatchers sent the call to police officers, Harbourt was about a block and a half away.
Harbourt rushed to the call — in horse terms, he cantered Bandit — and tied up his partner outside. He was there in 30 seconds, he estimated.
From there, Harbourt took the girl, turned her around and with one well-placed thrust to the back, the carrot came flying out.
Nevaeh started moving, and breathing, Harbourt said, and everyone in the room relaxed a bit, or as Harbourt said lightly yesterday, “We could all start breathing again.”
“I never want to experience that again, ” Blake said. “After the fact, I broke down.”
About a hour after the 12:15 p.m. incident last Wednesday, Dr. Sach Kassutto, the pediatric doctor who treated the girl at Capital Health System at Mercer hospital, sent an e-mail to the police department, praising the police officer on horseback, who he believed “saved the child’s life.”
Blake gave Harbourt a hug and a kiss and more thanks yesterday and labeled him a hero. But the stoic officer gave a stoic response: “I was just glad everything worked out and we were able to do our jobs,” he said, speaking for Bandit as well.
Before he was a city police officer, Harbourt was an emergency medical technician for Trenton EMS and has experience with choking infants. About 10 years ago, he successfully dislodged another small girl’s airway with the same maneuver.
Yesterday, he took advantage of the media presence to urge people, especially those with small children, to consider learning how to treat choking victims.
“It’s an important skill to have, especially during the holidays, because you never know who you’ll be able to help out.”
For Blake, Harbourt’s presence was not just chance or timing by a medically trained cop.
“He is a godsend,” she said
Contact Kevin Shea at kshea@njtimes.com. 

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