5-year-old earns BSA lifesaving award for saving his little brother from choking

Cub Scout Cameron Aziz holds his Medal of Merit plaque
Cameron Aziz, now 8, holds the certificate he earned for saving his little brother's life. Photo courtesy of the Aziz family

When Cameron Aziz was 5 years old, he completed a Cub Scout activity that required him to “demonstrate you know what to do in an emergency.” It was that training that gave Cameron the knowledge and courage to respond appropriately when he noticed his 9-month-old brother in a dangerous situation, his father says.

“I think that was what made the difference,” says Michael Aziz. “Cameron was able to intervene because he had that information.”

On May 1, 2021, Cameron and his younger brother, Cyrus, were playing in an enclosed area near the kitchen of their Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home as Michael was making lunch.

The TV was on in the background.

Michael would intermittently check on the boys, then go back to preparing the food.

During one of the periods when he wasn’t directly observing them, Cameron “went nuts,” Michael says.

“Dad! Dad! Dad! Come!”

But by the time Michael had sprinted the 30 or so steps it took for him to get to his kids, the danger had already passed. Cameron had saved his little brother’s life.

A lifesaving act

Michael Aziz is a maternal-fetal medicine physician. He has extensive training in infant and neonatal resuscitation.

He knows a close call when he sees one.

“I see people who are in life-threatening situations at work almost every day,” he says. “It’s different when it’s your family.”

As toddlers are known to do, Cyrus had managed to crawl under a sofa and find a plastic bottle cap. And as toddlers are also known to do, it went right into his mouth.

As a medical professional, Michael likes to use the correct terms. He says he believes that Cyrus was not actively choking, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that that was seconds away.

“I think Cyrus was ‘starting to choke,’” says Michael. “It wasn’t up into his airway the whole way.”

As Michael ran towards his children, he saw Cameron knock his little brother over onto his stomach, pry his mouth open and extract the bottle cap.

When Michael arrived, Cyrus was coughing and crying.

A quick examination revealed scratches in his mouth, an indication of how close the boy had come to being unable to breathe.

“I think his quick thinking kept it from getting to that point,” Michael says. “If Cameron hadn’t been there or wasn’t paying attention, Cyrus could have choked, and I might have never known.”

For his actions on that day, Cameron was awarded the BSA’s Medal of Merit lifesaving award. Considering that the Lion Cub Scout program just began in 2018, Cameron becomes one of the youngest BSA members to have earned a lifesaving award.

Cameron and little brother Cyrus play in the snow
Cameron and Cyrus. Photo courtesy of the Aziz family

Being Prepared

Requirement No. 2 of the Lion Cub Scout Animal Kingdom Adventure is to “demonstrate you know what to do in an emergency.”

It includes an emergency preparedness game in which Lions review a list of emergency scenarios, along with a list of proper responses. The game includes situations such as nosebleeds, scraped knees, bug stings, cuts and other accidents, and specifically mentions the importance of calling for help.

Although choking is not one of the scenarios listed in the game, Michael says he believes that the activities his son completed helped prepare him for that day.

“I think Cameron correctly identified that his little brother was about to choke,” he says. “And he was able to intervene.”

Michael says he has fond memories of participating in Scouts as a youth.

When his son expressed an interest in signing up, he was fully on board. Eventually, he became the den leader.

Now, he is the Cubmaster for Pack 381 in Pittsburgh.

Cameron is now 8. He just completed the Wolf Cub Scout rank and, when I spoke to Michael last week, was excited for summer camp.

“He loves Cub Scouts,” Michael says.

Michael says Cameron reads Scout Life magazine regularly. His favorite section is Scouts in Action, which recognizes BSA members who have earned lifesaving awards.

“I think any time kids can learn to take care of themselves and take care of one another, and be active, be outside … that’s a positive thing,” says Michael. “Anyone can be in an emergency. The Scout motto is Be Prepared. If Cameron hadn’t had that preparation, that might have made the difference.

“I’m just so grateful.”

About Aaron Derr 391 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.